Blackpool History – Professional Ballroom

ALF DAVIES OAM & JULIE REABY

We will start with the Professional Ballroom Championship with records of previous winners of this championship going back to 1931, which was won that year by British couple, Mr M Stewart and Miss P Sykes of London.   England had won this championship every year until a young and very energetic Australian couple of the late Alf Davies OAM & Julie Reaby took the Blackpool Dance Festival, and the world by storm.  In 1954 they tied for first place with the reigning British Champion, Sonny Binnick of London, making Alf & Julie the first non British couple to become the champions (although being tied for first place) in the Professional Ballroom event.  Alf & Julie returned again in 1955 to try and clench the title as their own but had to settle for the runners up position being beaten by their arch rivals Sonny Binnick & Sally Brock however, in 1956 came back again with the very famous Australian fighting spirit to win the Blackpool Dance Festival and British Open To The World Championship putting Australia well and truly on the world map for Ballroom Dancing and making Australia a force to be reckoned with.

JOHN & WENDY THORNTON

The next finalists from Australia in the Professional Ballroom were Queenslanders, John & Wendy Thornton who placed 5thth in 1976 and 6th in 1977. John & Wendy were 3 times Australian Professional Ballroom Champions and also Amateur Champions and in 1976 finished 3rd in the World Professional Ballroom Championship. In 1978, we see Greg Smith & Marion Alleyne (Welsh) who placed 5th in their first year as Professionals and the following year, 1979 finish in 3rd place.  Greg & Marion are the second highest placing Australians in the history of the Professional Ballroom Championship at Blackpool.  Greg & Marion also placed 3rd at the World Professional Ballroom Championship in Germany, 1979.  Unfortunately, they terminated their partnership and Marion went on to dance with her now husband Kenny Welsh, and feature in a further 6 British Professional Ballroom finals. 

The 1980’s  see’s Australia feature in many semi finals of this event with Alex & Julie Schembri, Doug & Sue Potter, Les & Julie Patchett and Glen Tierney & Anne-Marie Powell.  All fantastic ambassadors for Australia at the time and, always strong contenders for the final.  New Zealand was also present in the early 80’s with Doug Newton from Sydney partnered with Candy Lane from New Zealand.

ALAN & DONNA SHINGLER

In the 1990’s we do not have any records of any Australian couples being in the top 12 in this event however, in the year 2000 we see Donna Shingler with Alan who featured in the final from 2000-2004, and two other Australian couples making the semi final round with Grant Barratt-Thompson & Mary Patterson in 2007 & 2008 and Matthew Rooke & Anna Longmore in 2009 , 10, 11 & 12.

From 1956 right through to 2001, Alf & Julie had been the only non British couple to claim the Professional Ballroom Championship title until Augusto Schiavo from Italy teamed up with Lyn Marriner from the UK to claim the victory for Italy in 2002. 

Here is a look at the Australasian dancers that have been very successful in the Professional Ballroom Championship over the years

CHAMPIONS

  • 1954 – Alf Davies OAM & Julie Reaby
  • 1956 – Alf Davies OAM & Julie Reaby (NSW)

RUNNERS UP

  • 1953, 55, 57 & 58 – Alf Davies OAM & Julie Reaby (NSW)

3RD PLACE

  • 1979 – Greg Smith & Marion Alleyne (NSW)

5TH PLACE

  • 1952 – Alf Davies OAM & Julie Reaby (NSW)
  • 1976 – John & Wendy Thornton (QLD)
  • 1978 – Greg Smith & Marion Alleyne (NSW)
  • 2004 – Alan & Donna Shingler (UK)

6TH PLACE

  • 1977 – John & Wendy Thornton (QLD)
  • 2003 – Alan & Donna Shingler (UK)

7TH PLACE

  • 2000 – Alan & Donna Shingler (UK)
  • 2002 – Alan & Donna Shingler (UK)

SEMI FINAL

  • 1978, 79, 80 & 81 – Les & Julie Patchett (VIC)
  • 1980, 81, 82, 83 & 84 – Alex & Julie Schembri (NSW)
  • 1982 – Doug Newton & Candy Lane (NZ)
  • 1986 – Glen Tierney & Anne-Marie Powell (UK)
  • 1999 & 2001 – Alan & Donna Shingler (UK)
  • 2007 & 2008 Grant Barratt-Thompson & Mary Patterson (NSW)
  • 2009, 10, 11 & 12 – Matthew Rooke & Anna Longmore (VIC)

QAURTER FINAL (TOP 24)

  • 1965 – Ray & Margaret Reeve (NSW) 15th place
  • 1968 – Neil & Jenny Rosenfeld (VIC)
  • 2013 – Matthew Rooke & Jelena Samuilova (VIC) 14th place
  • 2017 – Richard Tonizzo & Claire Hansen (Canada)
  • 2017 – Steven Grinbergs & Rachelle Plaass (NSW)
GRANT BARRATT-THOMPSON & MARY PATTERSON (NSW)
Semi Final 2007 & 2008
MATTHEW ROOKE & ANNA LONGMORE (VIC)
Semi Final 2009, 10, 11 & 12