[dance] When most students think about club dancing they think of the Cupid Shuffle, Soulja Boy and the regular bump and grind that you see every Friday night at Rick’s. But now, there is a new dance craze taking over the club scene – ballroom dancing.
With the recent advent of ballroom themed entertainment from the ABC hit show Dancing with the Stars to recent Hollywood blockbusters Shall We Dance and Take the Lead it is clear ballroom dancing is catching on. Everyone has heard of the waltz, salsa, fox trot and swing, but what is ballroom dancing really like? What is its appeal once the sequins and bright lights are gone? To answer these questions, and many more, I recently sat down the MSU Ballroom Dance Club, the MSU Social Dance Club and the MSU Salsa Club to find out what is so appealing about ballroom dancing.
For zoology junior Kristen Wolfe, ballroom dance was the next logical step in her dance training. “I’ve been dancing since I was 5. I had done all kinds of dance except for ballroom, so when I came to college it was basically the only kind of dance I hadn’t tried yet. I came to the MSU Ballroom Dance Club, really enjoyed learning something new, and have been with the club ever since. Wolfe is the Ballroom Dance Club’s vice president of finance.
For Wolfe, ballroom dancing is not just about the dance itself; it is about the skills gained from learning to work with so many different partners. “You learn a lot about trust in ballroom,” Wolfe said. “Because you need to dance with another person, you have to learn how they move and learn to move with them. It’s a great way to learn cooperation.” Compared to the other styles of dance she knows, Wolfe says ballroom dancing is one of the best styles to try to meet new people.
“My favorite ballroom dance is the tango. There is a lot of emotion in it, and you can also have a lot of fun with it. It’s not too fast, it’s not too slow; it’s a powerful dance just because of the manner in which you dance it,” Wolfe said. [Lu]
Accounting junior Roman Krivochenitser got into ballroom dancing because it looked like a great way to get to know people. “When I first came to MSU I had no previous dance experience. I had always wanted to learn how to ballroom dance, so I checked out the MSU Ballroom Dance Club,” Krivochenitser said. Through his ballroom dancing experience Krivochenitser said that he has made a lot of new friends and met a lot of interesting people.
After taking some slow traditional dance classes with the MSU Ballroom Dance Club, Krivochenitser, with his newfound passion for salsa, decided to start the MSU Salsa Club. “I really enjoy salsa because it is a very active dance and with a lot of room for improvisation. You can really add your own style, your own spice to the dance. It is a great way to get out and meet a lot of different people, and it’s a good way to meet girls. Salsa is also a sexy dance, so that is definitely a plus,” Krivochenitser said.
Associate professor of food engineering Kirk Dolan was first turned onto ballroom dancing by the movie Swing Kids. “It just looked like a lot of fun. When I first came to MSU I was thinking, what can I do that would be good exercise, but at the same time could be social rather than just running on a treadmill?” Dolan said. For Dolan, the answer was ballroom dancing. “It’s something where you’re using your mind, you have to learn something, and at the same time you are using your body. Plus you get to meet a lot of people. I like it because it’s a social activity as opposed to just swimming laps on your own.”
Dolan, who is not the faculty advisor for the Social Dance Club, started his ballroom dancing education at MSU by joining the MSU Ballroom Dance Club. As Dolan became more serious about ballroom dancing, he decided that the club was a good start, but he wanted to learn more. “I also found lessons down town at Steppin’ Out,” said Dolan. “It is no longer around, but I just looked it up in the phonebook because I wanted to take additional group lessons each week. So I did both; Ballroom Dance Club and Steppin’ Out.”
Dolan’s favorite type of ballroom dance is swing. “The reason I really got into the swing area, such as East Coast and West Coast Swing, is because it is much more open and free for both the man and the woman. The girls have more freedom to move around [in swing] where as in the ballroom it is primarily run and controlled by the man all the time.” [Roman]
Diversity in the Ballroom
The MSU Ballroom Dance Club, Salsa Club and Social Dance Club boast a broad range of students from chemical and mechanical engineers, to James Madison majors, to theatre and Lyman Briggs students. There are also a lot of international students like human resources graduate student Mumu Yu, who is from China. According to Yu, the current president of the Social Dance Club, one encounters a lot of diversity through ballroom dancing, especially here at MSU.
“The student body here at MSU is very diverse. It seems like half of the students are international and half are domestic. We look at the Social Dance Club as a very international and global dance club, and now we are trying to increase awareness of diversity and inclusion through the dancing arts.” [dancepic]
But I can’t dance!
While there may be a lot of interest in ballroom dancing today because of its increasing popularity, there still seem to be a few barriers to getting started. A lot of people are concerned that they are incapable of learning how to dance, or that, even if they can dance, that they will not have a partner. Lu however said that in her experience as a certified salsa teacher even those without dance background have been able to pick up the art form.
“I may just be lucky, but I have never encountered a student who couldn’t learn how to [ballroom] dance,” Lu said.
Dolan agreed and said that everyone can learn how to dance; there are just different levels of proficiency. “Dancing is just like in speaking. Even in your own language, you’re going to have some people who are much better at speaking English than others. But everybody can speak. The same is true for dance.” He urges people who are interested in ballroom dance to give the dances some time and to keep practicing. “Come out and try it, and give it a semester. If you can just get started in something you like and you give it a little time you might be surprised by how much you learn. And maybe after a semester you might find out that you really love it. You just have to give it a chance.”
Since ballroom dance requires all dancers to have a partner, a lot of students are deterred from trying it because they do not have anyone to dance with. This, however, is not the case. All of the ballroom dance groups on campus are adamant in asserting that you do not need to bring a partner to learn to ballroom dance here at MSU.
“We have a strict ‘no partner necessary’ rule for the Salsa Club,” Krivochenitser said. “A lot of people e-mail me saying ‘Oh, I don’t have a partner,’ or ‘My boyfriend can’t come,’ and my response is always, ‘You’re here to meet people, you don’t need a partner.'”
Krivochenitser went on to say that even if you have a partner it is vital that you switch partners. “At Salsa Club we have people rotate partners at least every half hour. If you are going to be a good ballroom dancer you need to get used to different leads and different follows. The only way to get better at dancing is to broaden your range and your experience.”
Wolfe said that if students are interested in ballroom dance they should not let a lack of a partner or a lack of experience stop them. “We would like everyone to be able to try ballroom; we would like everyone to learn it; we’re trying to make it very approachable to everyone because I too believe that everyone has the potential to dance,” Wolfe said. That is why the MSU Ballroom Dance Club’s slogan is “No partner required, no experience necessary.” The ballroom dance club, like every other ballroom club on campus, ensures that everyone gets to dance by rotating partners every few minutes.[dancepic2]
Dance as if no one is watching
For some, ballroom dancing is a form of self expression. For others it is a social form of exercise. Regardless of the reasons that drive people to try ballroom dancing, it is clear that there is more to ballroom than just dancing. There are trust and cooperation elements to be learned along with the steps, and there is interpersonal interaction to be gained that is often lost in our technology driven society.
While the necessity of a partner and the ability to dance may be barriers for some students, they do not need to be. There are still hundreds of others without partners here at MSU who come out every week to socialize and ballroom dance. So what are you waiting for? If you are tired of doing the electric slide and line dancing to “Cotton-Eye Joe,” why not check out the latest dance club dance craze. Whether you’re a dancer, a socialite, or a exercise guru, in the ballroom there’s something for everyone.
Social Dance Club
Lessons every Friday from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at the Spartan Village Community Center ($2 per lesson).
Contact email@example.com for more information.
Lessons every Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the Shaw Hall Basement.
Contact MSUSalsaClub@gmail.com for more information.
State Swing Society
Lessons every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Gilchrist Pub.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
MSU Ballroom Dance Club
Lessons every Sunday from 12:30 to 3:30 pm at Demonstration Hall Ballroom ($3 per lesson).
Contact email@example.com for more information.