By Emily Green
Dancing with the Stars isn’t the only hot spot for competitive ballroom dancing. Ballroom Dance Club/Competitive Ballroom Dance Team here at Michigan State University has room for plenty of dancers from novice to expert.
The Ballroom Dance Club has been around since the 1980s and is mainly focused on providing inexpensive dance lessons to the community. These lessons are held on Sunday afternoons throughout the school year on campus at Demonstration Hall.
“The Sunday lessons are taught by a professional couple while there are student captains who are [also] student captains appointed to help teach,” said Secretary/Public Relations and zoology junior Sarah LoPresto.
While the club has been around since the ’80s, the Competitive Ballroom Dance Team, which is connected with the Ballroom Dance Club, just started recently in 2009. This aspect of the team brings a more aggressive and creative feel to the club because students get to actually compete and show off their dancing skills instead of just constantly practicing them.
“For the competitive dances all colleges [who have a Competitive Ballroom Dance Teams] train for collegiate competitions,” LoPresto said.
Some of the competitions that they attend are the Ohio Star Ball Competition, which takes place in November and the Ohio State University Competition that takes place in April. When the members of the Ballroom Dance Team compete they have to dance with other members on the team as their partners.
“It is very important that the students pick their own partners and we don’t assign them,” LoPresto said.
This is because dancers must have good chemistry with their partners in order to perform well in their dances. Due to this fact and the lower membership of men on the team, some of the guys may have up to two or three partners. Because of this, the team is especially in need for new male members.
“Anyone can join the [competitive] team there are two levels. If you want to be on level two then you do need to audition, but there are no cuts,” LoPresto said.
The team is always open to new members and anyone is welcome to join.
Before the dancing part of the competitions begins there are some guidelines that the members must remember and need to follow before they can begin competing. While there are no set rules on the dress code for the dancers at the competitions, the members usually try to wear dressier clothes.
“The guys wear all black and the girls wear heels and dresses. Nothing like all the fancy costumes you see on Dancing with the Stars,” LoPresto said.
Along with the dress code there are also specific dances and techniques that the dancers need to know.
“We have a dance syllabus that tells us what dances to do and different moves and skills within the dances,” LoPresto said.
After the team figures out what dances they are doing for the competition, they begin practicing for the day when they get to show off their dancing skills and techniques in the competition.
“Everyone on the team competes at the competitions, there are just different levels in [each] competition. Bronze, which is the lowest level, then silver, and finally gold. In the gold level there is more technique,” LoPresto said.
The members who are a part of the bronze group at first shouldn’t get discouraged according to LoPresto because you can move up in categories based on your skill level and number of years on the team.
SPREADING THE WORD
For just starting in 2009 the Competitive Ballroom Dancing Team has done a good job with getting the word out about their club, in a variety of different ways. Some of the existing members on the Ballroom Dance Team were introduced to it through their friends or by fellow members on the Ballroom Dance Team.
“I have been dancing forever and when my friend told me about it, I went. I love it, it is like home,” said English junior Kaitlyn Hlywa.
Additionally some team members happened to come across the Ballroom Team on their own. Several people found out about it from the Michigan State’s student life web page that lists all the clubs at MSU while other members heard about it at Sparticipation when the Ballroom Dance Team had a spot there to recruit new team members.
“I wanted to keep dancing after high school, [then] I heard about the club through their booth at Sparticipation and wanted to try out ballroom dancing,” said accounting sophomore Ashley Wood, a member for two years now.
The members of the Competitive Ballroom Dance Team are very passionate about dancing and each other as a team, many see the team as being as close as family.
“My favorite part of the team is the bonding experience. [The team] is more about fun, it is like a family,” Hlywa said.
“I love that the team is one big family and when we all hang out together. I also love midnight breakfasts with the team. [Everyone] makes me feel welcome,” said studio art junior Jill Hakala.
If you are at all interested in joining the competitive ballroom dance team or in taking lessons from them the best way to contact the team is through their website www.msu.edu/-ballroom. If you would rather have a firsthand look at the club instead, then go Thursday nights when the competitive team holds an open practice which is more of social and informal practice from ten to midnight in Demonstration Hall.