Esquimalt's David Spence and Denise Riley-Spence will represent Canada at the senior III world championships in Italy in July. The couple will also be competing in the B.C. senior closed championships in Victoria on Saturday.

Esquimalt couple waltz to world championships

A local ballroom dance couple will be representing the country at the senior world championships this summer.

A local ballroom dance couple will be representing the country at the senior world championships this summer.

David Spence and his wife, Denise Riley-Spence have qualified for the senior III world championships in Italy in July.

For the past eight years, the duo have been competing in ballroom competitions around the world, performing the foxtrot, waltz, quickstep, tango and viennese waltz.

It’s a passion that began unexpectedly for the couple.

They were on a Caribbean cruise in 2008 when they saw couples dancing, moving their bodies to the music in a way they had never experienced before.

“Each type of music they knew how to do a different dance. We couldn’t figure out how they knew to do a different dance each time,” Denise said. “We were just inspired by them. We would follow them around the cruise ship just to watch them dance.”

Shortly after returning to Victoria, they started social dancing — enrolling in classes that taught basic moves and small steps, and joining the Victoria Ballroom Dance Society.

But they quickly decided to switch to dance sport — a more competitive, athletic style of ballroom dance.

Since then, the couple has worked on perfecting their skills on the dance floor, training everyday for roughly two hours. They’ve competed in a number of competitions including the senior II world championships in Vancouver last year, the German open championship and the Paris open championship.

But David admitted the moves are more challenging than they look.

“The body has to take a lot of punishment to do those big sways. It’s not like you get to perform when you dance singly,” David said, adding the sport allows them to spend some much-needed time together as well.

“When we’re on the floor there’s up to 11 other couples. You’re trying to make everything work and deal with them being in your way or them coming at you . . . the extent that we’re putting out physically is quite draining and at the end we’re dripping in sweat,” he added

Prior to the world championships, the couple is getting the rare opportunity to show off their skills in front of a local crowd as part of the Pacifica Ball at the Victoria Convention Centre Saturday.

As part of the competition, more than 40 couples ranging from five-years-old to 80 from Canada and the United States will be competing. Seven-time Canadian champions Belyayev and Popova from Toronto will also be performing.

“It’s a very rare opportunity because this competition doesn’t happen very often. Our friends and family can actually come out and actually see us in Victoria. They don’t have to look at photos and videos from far away,” added Denise.

Event chair Victor Golubkov hopes the event will encourage others to take up ballroom dancing.

“Ballroom dancing is a very physically demanding type of activity. For anybody looking for ways to improve their physical and mental state, it’s the best way of doing that,” he said.

The event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is followed by a gala in the evening. Tickets can be purchased at the McPherson Box Office at 250-386-6121.