Ballroom Dancing Returns to Empress Ballroom 9 June 2021 by Visit Blackpool Closed for more than 15-months, the Empress Ballroom which is set to celebrate its 125th anniversary this August welcomed back the glitz and glamour of live ballroom dancing last week, as the inaugural edition of Strictly NHS waltzed into the historic venue. Closed in March 2020 as the pandemic struck the UK, the Empress Ballroom, the home of ballroom dancing has remained largely dormant since with only a small number of live streamed events taking place. Friday saw a socially distanced sell-out audience head to the venue to witness the inaugural NHS Strictly event, organised by Crown Ballroom events. The first live dance event since the venues closure. Strictly NHS saw 12 NHS employees from across the UK swapping their scrubs and lanyards for sequins and sparkle as they competed in a Strictly Come Dancing-style competition in the Empress Ballroom at Winter Gardens Blackpool. The event, partnering with NHS charity Blue Skies, set out to raise £10,000 for the NHS, but exceed its target generating £23,000 on behalf of Blue Skies Hospital Fund. Alison Slinger, Director of Strictly NHS comments: “We could not have had a more perfect venue for Strictly NHS! The Empress Ballroom is where dreams are made and become reality, which was our aim for our finalists. With the newly restored floor being the perfect centre piece for our staging.” “The atmosphere in the ballroom on the night was electric, something that I've not witnessed for such a long time. Memories of a lifetime were made that night at the Empress!” Each contestant, an NHS employee, was paired with a professional dance partner who they spent six weeks together with training ahead of the event at the Winter Gardens Blackpool. Hosted by former Strictly presenter Ian Waite, the NHS team took to the floor in front of an expert judging panel including Argentine tango champion Flavia Cacace, choreographer and Dancing With The Stars Professional James Wilson and current pro dancers Amy Dowden and Giovanni Pernice. The eventual winner crowed as the inaugural NHS Strictly champion was, Safeguarding team member Adam Wilson from Leeds Teaching Hospitals with professional partner Amy. Michael Williams, Winter Gardens Blackpool Managing Director comments:‘After the most challenging year in the venues 125-year history, it is with great delight to see live ballroom return to its spiritual home, the Empress Ballroom. Revered throughout the world as the pinnacle of a dancers career, the Empress holds a special place in all our hearts and we cannot wait to welcome back competitors from across the Globe to compete when the Dance Festivals take place later this summer.’ Enhanced safety measures greeted guests as they arrived at the Winter Gardens Blackpool including the use of face masks, social distancing throughout the entire venue, hand sanitisation on arrival as well as temperature checks for all guests. The historic venue which reopened on Monday 17 May following the relaxation of lockdown measures has been awarded the Visit England “We’re good to go” Industry Standard. This confirms that the Winter Gardens Blackpool meets the Government and Public Health Guidance on COVID-19 measures being in place to ensure a safe visit for Guests. This is alongside the venues own ‘Safe and Sound’ campaign which will see the introduction of a wide range of new policies to ensure the safety of its guests. The new ‘Safe and Sound’ plans include the limiting of capacity with unoccupied seating between groups, temperature checks on arrival and contactless experiences amongst a range of new and enhanced policies. Winter Gardens Blackpool continues to welcome guests back to the Mazzei Café, Box Office and Old Victoria Bar which are now open daily. Live events including Britain’s Got Talent winner Jon Courtenay, Blackpool Rocks, Six The Musical and a summer season of Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage are set to welcome audiences in the coming weeks as well as many more which are on-sale now on the Winter Gardens website.