Search

Ipswich dance teacher runs world’s most famous ballroom competition with Strictly judges

PUBLISHED: 19:00 19 September 2020 | UPDATED: 12:43 20 September 2020

Emma Hawley runs the Ipswich School of Dancing. Picture: IPSWICH SCHOOL OF DANCING

Emma Hawley runs the Ipswich School of Dancing. Picture: IPSWICH SCHOOL OF DANCING

Archant

The owner of an Ipswich dance school has been running the world’s oldest and most famous ballroom dance competition online, with Strictly Come Dancing judges, after an unusual turn of events.

The Ipswich School of Dancing hosted the Battle of the Ballroom before taking on the Blackpool Dance Festival. Picture: STARLIGHT PRODUCTIONSThe Ipswich School of Dancing hosted the Battle of the Ballroom before taking on the Blackpool Dance Festival. Picture: STARLIGHT PRODUCTIONS

Emma Hawley has been a partner at her family business the Ipswich School of Dancing for over five years, but thanks to lockdown she has also been organising the prestigious Blackpool Dance Festival which has been held at the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool since 1920.

This year the competition was held online for the first time in its history and Mrs Hawley won the chance to host after impressing organisers earlier in the year with other online competitions.

The 36-year-old said: “It has all felt a bit unreal at the time but I’m so proud that we ended up doing it – who would have thought that a dance school in Ipswich would have been hosting this world wide dance competition.

“I first came up with the idea of running a competition when I noticed after a few months of lockdown people weren’t as interested in Zoom classes and dancers were getting bored.

The Ipswich School of Dance hosted the Blackpool Dance Festival online after owner Emma Hawley impressed organisers with previous online events. Picture: STARLIGHT PRODUCTIONSThe Ipswich School of Dance hosted the Blackpool Dance Festival online after owner Emma Hawley impressed organisers with previous online events. Picture: STARLIGHT PRODUCTIONS

“We thrive off competition and I realised that’s what we needed, so I decided to take it online.”

You may also want to watch:

The first competition the dance teacher hosted online was the Battle of the Ballroom and it went so well that she was approached by the British Dance Council to take on the Blackpool Dance Festival.

With near to 3,000 entries from 32 different countries, the competition lasted 12 days from start to finish and included nine age groups, from under eights to over 50s.

There were 65 of the most highly acclaimed Ballroom and Latin personalities from around the globe judging the competition, including Strictly Come Dancing Judge Shirley Ballas, Marcus Hilton MBE chair of the British Dance Council and Gaynor Fairweather MBE.

There were so many Chinese contestants that Mrs Hawley had to recruit the help of one of her students to translate for them and some of her other dance pupils took part in the competition.

During lockdown the dancers were competing from their homes but now studios have reopened they’re been able to return there.

The event has gone down in history as the first major online dance competition, streamed online by DSI TV, and there are plans to run more competitions in the future.

MORE: Days Gone By – Morris dancing and singing at Felixstowe Folk Festival


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ipswich Star. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Ipswich Star