Venue casts its spell on Strictly dancers

Alexandra Burke and Gorka Marquez. Photos by Dave Nelson
Alexandra Burke and Gorka Marquez. Photos by Dave Nelson
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The jewel in Blackpool’s glittering crown, the Tower Ballroom, is once more be going live to the nation as Strictly Come Dancing broadcasts from the resort tonight.

Up to 12 million viewers are set to tune into the resort’s biggest TV advert of the year, as part of the primetime BBC juggernaut that is Strictly.

Debbie  McGee

Debbie McGee

The episode is one of the highlights of the BBC One dancing show every year, and is a milestone moment the celebrities aim for.

Excitement has been building as the celebrities arrived in town, with fans meeting their TV idols outside the Big Blue Hotel where the cast and crew are based.

The annual visit by one of the nation’s favourite TV shows is hailed as a ‘money can’t buy’ opportunity for Blackpool to showcase the very best of what it has to offer.

Fans can expect to see clips from some of Blackpool’s top attractions, as the celebrity dancers and their professional partners get into the spirit of the seaside resort.

Gemma Atkinson and Aljaz Skorjanec

Gemma Atkinson and Aljaz Skorjanec

Among the highlights will also be a performance from Blackpool-born singing sensation Alfie Boe with Michael Ball, as well as Tears For Fears.

The show gives a much needed boost to the winter economy, coming just after the close of the summer season, bringing in visitors for the weekend to attend the filming in the Tower, as well as enticing viewers to come and see the Ballroom in all its glory for real.

Claire Smith, president of hoteliers’ group Stay Blackpool, said the programme was ‘hugely important’ for the town.

“It’s amazing publicity for the right reasons and promoting all that’s good in the town,” she said. “This year is going to be a little bit extra special too, with Alfie Boe performing - being a local boy it adds to the whole wonderful nature of it all.

Katya Jones signs an autograph for a fan

Katya Jones signs an autograph for a fan

“The Tower Ballroom is now on people’s ‘to do’ list when they visit and that’s as a result of seeing the Tower Ballroom on screen as part of Strictly.

“They come and they stay over - it’s hugely important to our economy.”

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said: “It’s a very welcome, top of the market advertorial for the town and I hope it’s a great weekend.”

The celebrity dancers and their partners took their first tentative steps on the hallowed sprung floor yesterday for rehearsals, and were awestruck at the beauty of the Tower Ballroom.

Davood Ghadami with dancing partner Nadiya Bychkova

Davood Ghadami with dancing partner Nadiya Bychkova

Speaking to The Gazette between rehearsals, The Saturdays’ singer Mollie King said: “Oh my gosh, it’s unbelievable, amazing.

“There’s so much history and I’m feeling very lucky to be here.

“Rehearsals are going well, we’ve got a few lifts in our routine so we’re trying to perfect those.”

She’ll be dancing the charleston to Little Mix track Wings with her professional partner AJ Pritchard, who - like all the Strictly professionals - has a special place in his heart for Blackpool.

“It’s fantastic for us professionals,” he said. “I’ve won the British open, world and European titles here.

“For me to explain the feeling of Blackpool to Mollie has just been words up until now, now she understands it.”

Joe McFadden and his dance partner Katya Jones

Joe McFadden and his dance partner Katya Jones

And Mollie’s excited to see the response from tonight’s Ballroom audience.

“I can feel the atmosphere in the room,” she said. “The Strictly crowds are always amazing.”

Many of the celebrities took to social media to share their excitement at the Blackpool experience.

Comedian Susan Calman shared pictures on Twitter of the ornate Ballroom roof, as well as the view from her room at the Big Blue Hotel, and said: “My hotel room in Blackpool looks onto a rollercoaster. Sums up my Strictly so far.

“Thrilling and terrifying. Perfect.”

She added: “First time in the Tower Ballroom. Gorgeous.”

While professional dancer Aljaz Skorjanec, who partners actress and radio DJ Gemma Atkinson - who celebrated her birthday yesterday, shared a video of Gemma’s first look inside the venue.

“Oh my gosh, Aljaz, look at the ceiling... We are going to dance in here. It’s like magical,” she said.

Actor Davood Ghadami shared a clip in Blackpool glasses, saying “I love Blackpool”, while singer and stage star Alexandra Burke said: “You know when you’re so excited and can’t control it! Yeah that’s me! Hyper hyper today! The Blackpool ballroom is out of this world!”

Also set to take to the bouncy ballroom floor are Debbie McGee, Jonnie Peacock and Joe McFadden.

See Blackpool Tower Ballroom in all its glory tonight at 6.45pm and tomorrow on BBC One.