Dimitri Petrides

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Dimitri Petrides (August 1912 in Cyprus – 1985 in Blackpool) was a ballroom dancer who was instrumental in pioneering and developing Latin American dancing in England. He left Cyprus when he was eighteen with his mother after the death of his father, eventually settling in England. He was one of the founding members of the Latin-American Faculty of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, and wrote the first English text-book on the subject. He was a Fellow and Examiner of the ISTD.

Dimitri was also an adept linguist speaking Greek, English, French and Italian, so much so that, during World War II he worked as a translator on an prisoner of War Camp for Italian Prisoners of War. Later, after the war, Dimitri was in a jewellery shop buying awards for a competition, when he met Nina Hunt. She asked him to teach her to dance. They were later married, and had a son, Ian.

Latin dance in England

The rhythms that make Latin American dance popular today were first brought to this country in the early 1930s. It was a Frenchman who introduced this style to the English dance scene. He had come to Britain as a young man, and was known professionally as Monsieur Pierre, (Pierre Jean Phillipe Zurcher-Margolle, Toulon, France, circa 1890 – London, 1963). Pierre was already an accomplished dancer and teacher in the English ballroom style when the Peanut Vendor started the rumba craze in Europe and America in 1931. The rumba and the beguine were demonstrated in London in 1932 by the French champion couple M. & Mme Chapoul at an event organised by The Dancing Times. Pierre was present and went to the Cabine Cubaine club in Paris to take a look at the dancers.[1]


In 1947 Pierre, his partner Doris Lavelle and colleague Doris Nicols founded the Latin American section of the Ballroom Branch of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD). Meanwhile, Dimitri had met Josephine Bradley, one of the greats of Ballroom dancing. Miss Bradley suggested to Gwenethe Walshe that she might partner up with Dimitri. Dimitri and Gwenthe were Britain's first Latin American champions winning many of the earliest competitions before going on to build on their success and become popular as demonstrators, lecturers, coaches and judges. It is hard to imagine today that there was no Latin at the Blackpool Tower, the International had not started, and the Star featured a competition in rumba only. Dimitri and Gwenethe joined the new faculty very early on.

The Latin American section of the ISTD now included Gwenethe Walshe and Dimitri Petrides. This small band of dedicated specialists worked hard to establish an examination system and syllabus for both amateur and professional dancers. Sidney Francis and Walter Laird also joined somewhat later.[2] The syllabus they worked on was eventually agreed upon by 1955 and ever since been the basis of Latin American dancing. The group improved technique and the framework for teaching and assessment dramatically in these years.

Dimitri was important in pioneering and developing Latin American dancing. He worked on the figures, gave demonstrations, and taught students. He wrote one of the first technique books in English for Latin American dancing in 1949 entitled The Latin-American dances (later edition, 1960, The Latin American technique). Of this book the General Secretary of the ISTD, H. Vivian Davies said:

"... Dimitri Petrides is today recognised as one of the foremost authorities in this county on Latin and American dancing... the author has justly earned a reputation for authenticity and style." [3]

He was also part of a later committee of examiners, which included Sidney Francis, Peggy Spencer, Doris Lavelle, Elizabeth Romain, and Doris Nichols. They prepared the Revised Latin American Technique. This states in its foreword "this is the official Latin-American technique upon which all future Imperial examinations are to be conducted" and is still used by the ISTD in five parts (one for each Latin dance).

Dimitri next turned his attentions to establishing competitive dancing and set up several competitions in England including the prestigious All England Championship with Nina and Sidney Francis. He became a leading examiner and adjudicator, as well as a Fellow of the ISTD. Dimitri continued to work until his death whilst judging at the famous Blackpool Dance Festival.


  1. Spencer, Frank and Peggy. 1968. Come dancing. Allen, London. p137
  2. Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing 2004. 100 years of dance: a history of the ISTD Examinations Board. London.
  3. H. Vivian Davies, Foreword to Petrides, Dimitri 1949. The Latin-American dances. London.