‘Ballroom is a dying art… it’s nice to keep it alive’: How NI dance troupe is reviving jiving and more

Ballroom Blitz NI was founded by Debbie Worsley, who along with her two sisters was trained in ballroom and Latin dancing as a child, only to take it up again when they were older.

She now runs the dance troupe who regularly perform at events, showing off different styles of dance. The group will be performing at events to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day in June.

“I’m a professional ballroom dance teacher and together with my two sisters we did lots of dancing when we were younger and came back to it recently after we had grown up and got married,” said Debbie.

“It was originally supposed to be a one-night-only event for a charity ball 14 years ago, but since then it just took off.

“We deviated from ballroom dancing, as we found that lots of places didn’t have ballrooms or big-enough dance floors for ballroom routines, so we decided to go down the 1940s dance route.”

Ballroom Blitz is a volunteer dance troupe who perform themed dances from the 1940s to the Swinging 60s

The group, which is free to join and is entirely volunteer based, has performed at several high-profile events, including a celebration to mark the Titanic in Belfast, Remembrance Day and the Land of Giants celebration in Titanic slipway in 2012.

Ballroom Blitz NI also performed at events to mark the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022.

“A piece of music was actually commissioned for us for [the Land of Giants],” explained Debbie. “And we performed as the dancers acting like they were on the Titanic — if you went along and looked through the funnels you could see us in the ballroom.

“We do different eras, from rock’n’roll to jiving. It’s about the nostalgia of it all as well.”

Ballroom Blitz NI currently has 16 dancers; members are found through various dance events held by Debbie and her sisters.

“We’re all in our 50s and we do it with our friend who we’ve known since we were seven years old.

“It’s all voluntary. We find dancers and people we see potential in when we’re holding our charity events and ask them to join. It’s men and women of all different ages, right up to their 50s and 60s, while our youngest member is in his 20s.”

(From left) Cheryl Hoy, Debbie Worsley and Helen Doey of Ballroom Blitz NI

Ballroom Blitz NI will next be performing at the Waterfront Hall for the 80th anniversary of the Army Benevolent Fund in an event hosted by UTV’s Paul Clark and featuring local talent including vocalists Matt Forsythe, Clara Wilson, Diana Culbertson and Sophie Giraudeau and comedian Gary Wilson.

The dance group will also be performing at several D-Day-themed events this summer to mark its 80th anniversary.

One of their performances includes a show at Killymoon Castle, Cookstown, which will be attended by dignitaries from France and the US who will watch the group perform a series of themed dances to tracks from wartime singers such as Dame Vera Lynn.

“We rehearse about three times a month, meeting in Antrim because it’s the most central place for us — we have people from Bangor, Carryduff, everywhere across Northern Ireland,” continued Debbie, who also hosts Strictly Come Dancing-themed events.

“We’re also working with Living History Ireland for D-Day commemoration events.

“We’ve also performed at Dalfest [Dalriada Festival of Music and Food], which is great because it’s for all ages.

“We get everyone up dancing with us to teach them a routine; everyone really loves it. I think people really like to see the older style of dancing, and people love a bit of the Elvis-themed music.

“Ballroom is a dying art, so I think it’s nice to keep it alive. It’s also classed as a luxury in today’s society. If a couple wants to learn to dance, it’s expensive. But if they come to us, we’re teaching it for free and it’s enjoyable.

“It’s nice to educate younger people with proper music too,” she said, laughing.

Ballroom Blitz NI comprises volunteers aged from their 20s to 60s

Belfast Telegraph News