WESTMINSTER PEOPLE: Chenca Westenius, ballet dancer who founded bridal boutique
She loves the 'bridal bubble' as much as the 'ballet bubbe'
03 March, 2017 — By Tevye Markson
Mother and daughter: Ritva and Chenca Westenius
MANY of us are lucky to have one successful career in an industry we love – for Chenca Westenius, luck struck twice.
The daughter of Ritva Westenius, founder of the eponymous Ritva Westenius bridal boutique in Connaught Street, Connaught Village, Chenca took a long and winding road to managing her family business.
She joined her mother’s bridal wear business 17 years ago, after a professional dancing career spanning 25 years. She now runs the boutique, which was founded in 1977, having taken over the reins in 2015.
“I absorbed all the invaluable knowledge my mother bestowed on me to become a co-designer with her, which I thank her for with all my heart,” says Chenca.
Before joining the business, she had risen to the highest rank in ballet performance and stayed at that peak for 11 years. “I joined the company after a lifetime with the Royal Ballet,” she says.
She was interested in ballet from a very early age and began her studies at the age of 10, training at the Royal Ballet School’s White Lodge. Her career took off at Sadler’s Wells.
“At the age of 17 I was chosen by Sir Frederick Ashton to dance the part of the Gypsy Girl in his wonderful ballet The Two Pigeons,” she recalls. She progressed through the company, becoming a principal for the last 11 years of her career.
“Twenty-five years of professional dancing and two children later I joined Ritva Westenius,” she says. “I thought I would dance for ever. As I had been in the ‘ballet bubble’ from two-and-a-half up until 2000 it was a very scary and daunting moment in my life to step into the real world with two young children to support.”
But she loves her current job as much as her career in ballet.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank my mother for trusting me to continue her legacy. I am so lucky to have been given a second opportunity in life and I love this ‘bridal bubble’ as much as my last,” Chenca adds. “There is always something new around the corner and it’s both rewarding and humbling to see the finished product.”
Taking over a successful and vibrant business has not been without its difficulties.
“I am running this business single-handedly, which sometimes can be exceedingly stressful, and there are days when I feel lonely. But then I pull myself together and start designing a new dress or calm myself down with some hand-beading,” says Chenca, adding that the most rewarding side of running the shop is looking after her clients. “After being gagged all my life, being a dancer, I have the freedom of speech once again. I love being able to transform women to give them the confidence they so deserve on their wedding day.”
As well as running the boutique, minutes away from Hyde Park, she lives in Connaught Village with her husband and children.
Her parents lived in the same area for 25 years before moving back to Chenca’s birthplace, Tunbridge Wells, in 2015. She remains greatly interested in the arts, adding: “At the moment I have no spare time but when the day comes that I can give myself a break I would love to get back out there to embrace ballet, theatre, art galleries, concerts, and dancing,”