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The Heritage Classic - Twenty-Five Years and Counting!


Originally Published: Wednesday, May 02 2012
By Colin Hillary

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In 1987 upon the advice of a respected friend in the entertainment business, I made the trip to Asheville, North Carolina to inspect a relatively little known yet prestigious resort hotel named the Grove Park Inn. At that time, this already historic property was in the process of completing a multi-million dollar expansion and renovation to offer state-of-the-art convention options. The vision included a plan to establish annual events during the quieter months to ensure year round occupancy and justification for this ambitious project.

The resort management had been assured by my long time friend, the Entertainment Director, that a ballroom dance championship similar to other such events throughout North America in that period could become quite successful, filling many rooms and generating revenue in the food and beverage departments.

For my part, the resort was interestingly unique and magnificently grand amid splendid surroundings, … but Asheville, North Carolina? Management understood my concerns for they too faced the same challenge and so began a business relationship between hotel management and a competition organizer unequalled to my knowledge, anywhere in the world.

Through unprecedented printed promotional material undertaken by the Grove Park Inn and subsidy of my ambitious promotional methods within the dance community nation-wide, the "Heritage Classic" grew within five years to become one of the largest competitions in North America. It was justifiably rewarding for the Grove Park Inn and appreciably so for Joy and myself due to the hotel management's support, which continues to this day.

In 1999 when the American Ballroom Company offered us the United States Professional Ten-Dance Championship to be held at the Heritage Classic, the Grove Park Inn ownership, when asked, agreed to sponsor this National Title. Although all National titles were returned in 2006 to the U.S.D.C., the Grove Park Inn continues to sponsor the Professional Latin Championship. I do not know of any other host hotel that sponsors an event.

Then in 2002, the resort added the Spa, an engineering marvel in terms of construction and design, making it one of the best spas in North America.

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the Grove Park Inn (1913-2013) making it uniquely rare in North America. Those who have been to the resort know of its historical significance, for one cannot walk the halls without noticing the photo galleries that adorn the walls depicting the famous people who have stayed there. Ford, Edison, Caruso, Roosevelt, plus other presidents, movie stars and many worthy celebrities.

The photo of movie and dance legend, Cyd Charisse is displayed because of her hosting the Heritage TV series in the ninety's. The 'ground-breaking' achievement to produce 25 hours of broadcast quality television programming about competition dancing in the United States has never been equaled let alone surpassed. These programs featured pro-am competition in addition to the professional events. An innovative 'pairing' of couples in the professional finals allowed the television viewing audience more opportunity to identify each couple and appreciate their talent.

In keeping with this tradition of famous and worthy celebrities, the Heritage Classic has featured many stars of the dance world. Names such as MBE honorees Donnie Burns and Gaynor Fairweather, Marcus and Karen Hilton, plus Paul Killick with both Oxana Nikiforova and Vebeke Toft, the Hilliers, Laxholmes, Eftedals and many United States and International champions, mostly holding World Titles, totaling 35 to date.

Even the prestigious judging panel is assembled from the most highly qualified and accomplished adjudicators; the criteria being only former champions and leading coaches are invited while including newly retired champions to offer their perspective.

The Heritage Classic for almost the entire twenty-five years provides tiered seating on all three sides for perfect forward facing views and theatrical lighting to create an even saturation of the floor area. A separate ballroom with dance floor and band provide two hours of dinner dance on all four evenings.

Joy and I wish to acknowledge with everlasting gratitude the people who have helped to make the Heritage Classic not only an astounding success, but an institution in the competition dance world.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the AccessDance Network. Be aware that imagery is copyrighted and often licensed for use on AccessDance only. Copying of images is strictly prohibited.

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