Thursday, June 30, 2011

In Memoriam: George C. Ballas Sr.

George C. Ballas, Sr., father of ballroom dance champion Mark “Corky” Ballas and grandfather of professional dancer and Dancing With the Stars pro Mark Ballas Jr., passed away on June 25, 2011. He was 85 years old.

George was born in Ruston, Louisiana, in 1926. Upon reaching 17 years-of-age, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF), serving in the Second World War as a bombardier. He would also later serve as an Air Force OSI agent during the Korean War. George married Maria Luisa Marulanda, a well-known Flamenco dancer, in 1952. The couple would go on to have five children together: Michelle, George “Buck” Jr., Maria “Winkie,” Corky, and Lillian.

Most notable of his many accomplishments, George was the inventor of the “Weed Eater,” establishing Weed Eater, Inc., in 1971. In the 1950s he also founded the largest dance studio in the world, Dance City USA, which employed 125 teachers. He also served as President of Fred Astaire Dance Studios from 1960 to 1964. George was a lead developer for the Westchase Hilton Hotel in Houston, Texas, and also authored two books.

Those achievements alone would be enough for most people to consider George’s life a success, but in his entire career he also reportedly founded over 100 other companies.

“He was the best grandpa in the world,” said grandson Mark Ballas in a Houston Chronicle story covering George’s passing. “Patient, understanding, wise, caring and loving – a wonderful man we’re all going to miss.”

George Ballas Sr. led a very full and inspiring life. He leaves behind his wife, Maria, daughters Michelle, Winkie and Lillian, sons George Jr. and Corky, and seven grandchildren.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all his family.

In lieu of flowers, the Ballas family has asked for memorial donations to go to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation ( or the Easter Seals (

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why You Should Get Into Competitive Ballroom Dancing

Over at the Upper Montclair studio's blog, owner Carrie Babcock has a terrific post on why it's important to compete in ballroom dancing.

"We seriously doubt that you decided to pursue ballroom dancing because you needed another activity to fill your dull and boring life," writes Carrie. "Most of us barely have time to watch the Dancing with the Stars episode that we TIVO’d. Competitive dancing is a bonus—an extracurricular activity that will help us enjoy our dancing. It gives us the opportunity to try hard, to practice, to study, and become the kind of dancer we dreamed of being when we started out. If we happen to pick up a blue ribbon in the process, it’s an exciting added bonus."

Carrie finishes her post with a long and impressive list of positives coming from competitive dancing. Check out her story here.