On a cold Saturday morning in mid-February, Nikita Varman and Angel Wu got up at 4 a.m. for what was going to be a very long day. Varman (CAS’19, SAR’19), President of BU Ballroom Dance Club, and Wu (CGS’17), Club Public Relations Coordinator, were checking last-minute details for the club’s biggest event of the season: the annual Terrier Dancesport competition, which attracts more than 400 ballroom competitors from Northeastern colleges.
Varman and Wu would triple check that the electronic scoring system was working properly and help their teammates with their hair and makeup before the 8 a.m. tee time. The competition was the culmination of months of planning. In addition to lining up judges and finding and inviting teams to compete, Varman says, team members have to take care of a myriad of tasks, from reaching out to other venue programs prom in the northeast to line up prize sponsors to order flowers, food, ribbons and the numbers that contestants wear on their backs during competition.
During the day, 4 to 12 couples at a time crowded the floor of the Metcalf Ballroom, the women resplendent in glittering ball gowns and suits, the men wearing black waistcoats and slacks and white shirts, although some have chosen a more formal black tie treatment. Women’s outfits can cost up to $1,500, but the BU team has a treasure trove of dresses passed down from year to year for members to use, and a few new outfits are purchased each season, adding to the inventory.
This year’s one-day competition started with Latin and rhythm dance competitions, followed by regular regular dances. By the end of the day at 7 p.m., the BU Ballroom team had placed 31 times in 20 different categories, winning 8 first-place awards.
Founded in 1995, the BU Ballroom Dance Club has hosted the Dancesport competition since 2001. It is one of two major events it sponsors each year. The other event is Montage, which takes place in the fall and provides a showcase of performances for various BU dance groups.
The club recruits members at Splash, the student activities fair held each school year. Varman, who had never taken up ballroom dancing, was introduced to the team there as a rookie. “I came for the free lesson, but I stayed for the people,” she says.
In addition to organizing showcases and competitions, members travel to competitions at other schools (they will compete on Saturdays at Rensselaer Polytechnic), and the team holds classes twice a week in the George Sherman Union Alley, open to all BU students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Lessons are followed by free practice.
Professional teachers offer beginner, intermediate and advanced classes on Tuesdays (Latin and Rhythm) and Thursdays (Smooth and Standard). The first class is free and subsequent classes are only $5. Discounted rates are available: $40 gets undergraduate students to take one semester of weekly classes ($60 for graduate students, faculty, and staff). The cost is a little higher to take two classes per week.
Every Tuesday you will find people of all ages learning to master cha cha, rumba and swing. Thursday is waltz, tango and foxtrot. But open workouts are often the most fun. Floaty-footed Terriers can be found going wild on songs like Rob Thomas or Ed Sheeran. The mood is light and contagiously happy.
“My favorite thing about the club is the atmosphere,” says Luke Jones (CAS’17), who started dancing in high school and loved it. “Everyone is open with each other here and we have become good friends. The instructors were invaluable. They challenge me from different directions and have helped my posture and balance in my everyday life. The club has changed my life immeasurably.
For others, like Varman, classes and workouts are a great way to reduce stress. “That’s where I just come to dance,” she says.
Members put in countless hours – many train at least eight hours a week – but they say it’s fun, not work. And what begins as a lark for many sometimes leads to romance. “We joke that if you’ve been with your dance partner for four years, you’re probably dating,” says Sarah Wu (COM’17). A number of recent ballroom alumni who met at the club are still in a relationship, she said.
And often, what the members learn on the dance floor informs their lives in unexpected ways. According to club treasurer Patrick Reilly (Questrom’18), “Being part of the team allowed me to learn and improve my skills in something outside of business… More importantly, it helped me communicate and share feedback with others.”
The BU Ballroom Dance Team will be competing in the RPI Dancesport competition at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, tomorrow, Saturday March 25th. The team will also compete in the MIT Open competition at Rockwell Cage, 106 Vassar St., Cambridge, on Saturday April 29 and Sunday April 30.
Find more information about the BU Ballroom Dance Club and its team here or on its Facebook page. Follow the club on Twitter @BUBballroom.
Connor Lenahan can be contacted at [email protected]
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