Glamorous spaces: public ballrooms and dance halls, 1890 – 1950

French, H (2015) 'Glamorous spaces: public ballrooms and dance halls, 1890 – 1950.' Interiors: Design/Architecture/Culture, 6 (1). pp. 41-57. ISSN 2041-9120

Official URL:


Public dance halls and ballrooms, a distinctive spatial type, can be found in most British cities, but they are largely unresearched–as either architectural or urban form or as interior design. This essay documents ongoing research into the design of this spatial typology and the relationship with dance and social histories, through three case studies of British ballrooms: the Hammersmith Palais de Danse (1919) and the Rivoli Ballroom (1958), the first and last respectively, to be opened in London, and the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool (1894), the first in Britain. From the outside, they are insignificant in formal urban terms presenting an ordinariness of “big sheds,” single-story structures often located on residual railway lands. Alternatively they are hidden in the middle of city blocks, barely visible from the street or concealed within the structure of more imposing buildings like the grand hotels of London's Mayfair or seaside holiday resorts. Once inside however, they present a very different picture. In stark contrast to their utilitarian exterior, the interiors are decorated with rich materials and plush finishes, embellished with sparkling crystals and twinkling lights; ballrooms are more like a stage set, offering the dancers an escape to a glamorous “other world.”

Item Type: Article
Keywords: ballrooms; dance halls; dancesport; entertainment; interior design; leisure
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
N Fine Arts > NK Decorative arts Applied arts Decoration and ornament
Divisions: Bath School of Design
UoA: Art & Design
Identification Number:
Date Deposited: 20 Mar 2015 13:10
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:39
URI / Page ID:
Request a change to this item or report an issue Request a change to this item or report an issue
Update item (repository staff only) Update item (repository staff only)