Is it the last dance for London's Rivoli Ballroom?

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The Independent Online

With the enduring success of Strictly Come Dancing, ballrooms up and down the UK should be flourishing.

But the Rivoli Ballroom, a famous venue in Brockley, south London, and one of only two remaining ballrooms in the capital, is now threatened with closure.

With its red velvet dcor, the Rivoli's charms are appreciated outside of the dancing world. The White Stripes played a gig at the ballroom just last summer, which won the rock group rave reviews, and it is also a favourite location for fashion shoots Brad Pitt, Kate Moss and Oasis have all posed for glamorous photographs at the venue.

Sections of BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing series have also been shot there, including promotional trailers. But owners Bill and Jeannie Mannix, who have been running the venue for more than 30 years, now want to retire and may have no other option than to sell up.

The couple, who have struggled for years to keep up with the high maintenance costs, have been made two offers of 10m for the ballroom.

As the site is not listed, if planning permission were granted the Rivoli could be knocked down to build flats, houses or shops, and its famous dancefloor lost.

Despite the publicity surrounding the BBC1 show hosted by Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly, which this year has seen celebrities including Kenny Logan, Kate Garraway and Letitia Dean battling it out on the dance floor, it seems people prefer to watch ballroom dancing on the small screen rather than head down to their local ballroom.

Bill Mannix told local newspaper, The Mercury, "We love this place and Jeanie is so passionate about it. For us it is all about glamour, sophistication, etiquette and beautiful dancing. But ballroom dancing is dying out. The Rivoli was really well used but times and cultures have changed and now we have to import an audience to fill the place."

Mr Mannix added: "It is really my health that is moving me on. The long hours become antisocial. You are working and worrying while people are having fun all around you. I am always running out of money for repairs and always praying for a good function. We have to do maintenance all the time. We have two offers of 10m for the place. I'm sad about the whole situation. Jeannie will shed a tear when we leave and we will both miss all the stars.

"I don't want the place knocked down for flats and houses. The council says it's a jewel in the crown and it really is just that."

The Rivoli started life in July 1913 as the Crofton Park Picture Palace. In 1957, when the advent of television caused cinema audiences to decline, it was bought by a local businessman and keen dancer Leonard Tomlin, who converted it into a ballroom.

The sloping floor of the cinema was levelled out and a sprungwood Canadian maple floor was installed making it one of the best dancefloors in the country and the Rivoli reopened on Boxing Day 1959.

The ballroom is famous for its dcor which includes red velvet fittings, flock wallpaper, chandeliers, glitter balls and over-sized Chinese lanterns.

In its list of 101 things to do before you leave London, which was published in May, Time Out magazine included "Dance to vintage American tunes at the spectacular Rivoli Ballroom".

The opera singer Lesley Garrett is a fan and once said that her perfect night out would finish with dancing at the Rivoli.

But the Rivoli is much more than just a celebrity haunt, it is also a favourite with south London's ballroom dance community, with everyone from beginners to competition level dancers coming along to its ballroom, salsa and jive evenings.

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