TWO years ago Chris and Kim Dunn flung open the doors to Sutton’s empty Regency Ballroom and started a love affair.
The couple had last been there to dance in the 1970s and had rekindled their romance with the venue purely by chance.
While browsing the internet for a house, they stumbled across a ‘for sale’ listing for the Regency, where they had glided and twirled together decades before.
“We’d only been back once since we last came regularly about 25 years ago,” said Chris (62).
“We walked in for a viewing and just looked at each other and knew we had to go for it.
“It’s about fulfilling something we always wanted to do.”
Two years on and a considerable amount of paint and effort later, and the venue is now hosting 10 separate dance class sessions a week and national dance competitions.
Night after night the huge ballroom echoes again with the sound of music and feet moving to Ballroom, Latin-American, Sequence and Salsa moves.
Chris said: “Our plan from the start was to hold dinner dances and to make it a national venue rather just a local dance school.
“We’ve spent close to in excess of £100,000, but it’s a long-term investment.
“In my son’s words ‘you do it because you want to make people happy’, and he’s right.”
The ballroom, which started life as the town hall in 1888, had been closed for two years before the family took it over.
It opened again as the Regency Dance Centre on 31st January 2009, after tens of thousands of pounds in renovations.
By day the couple run a care in the community business, but by the evening they and their son Andrew (20) turn all their attention to putting the centre, on Market Place, at the centre of the country’s dance community.
“On the competitive circuit you need a partner with the right height and age,” explains Kim.
“So people tend to get together from all over the country and come here to practice together because it’s so central.”
The centre’s first big competition, the East Midlands Dance Festival, appeared in October last year, and has led to more prestigious events from the English Amateur Dance Board Association.
Added Kim (52): “Dancing for some people is a passion for life once they’ve tried it.
“I also think people love it here because of the size and atmosphere of the place.”
Old and young are discovering their own passion through the centre’s classes, run by qualified instructors.
Adina Worboys (40), from Kirkby, is among those catching the bug and has just started Rock’n’Roll lessons.
“I first wanted to do something like this 10 years ago,” she said.
“It’s a fitness thing too and my daughter does freestyle and hip hop here so I thought I’d go for it.”
Teacher Jenna Sorensen specialises in instructing children aged five and above at the centre.
“Dancing can be addictive and you find yourself watching it on TV and saying ‘that’s not right’,” she said.
“If people want to pursue it, it can become a hobby and they can get quite determined.”
For more information about the centre contact Mansfield 552737 or 07947813328.