Have you ever watched an episode of “Dancing with the Stars” and thought, “God, I wish it was me”?
Well, this Saturday, October 9, you may have the chance to make your dancing dreams come true at Team Bates Ballroom’s first social event.
The Ballroom Team is one of the many Bates dance clubs on campus. Their dance style originated in 19th century European dances like the waltz, but extended until around the 1960s with styles like swing dancing. Some dances, like the fox-trot, are considered “gentle” while others, like the cha-cha, are “rhythmic” or, in the words of the president and community liaison officer Anna-Sophia Massaro ’22 , “Fun”.
The team performs on campus a few times a year, most notably at the Gala, and also attends three competitions, where they will get up at 3 a.m. to get everyone ready to go.
But above all, the Ballroom Team is a group designed to serve the Bates community. Until last year, you could participate in ballroom classes to earn physical education credits. As only seniors now have this requirement, this class has been removed.
The dances range from fairly easy like ‘you walk in a box at a very slow pace’ to ‘you spin like crazy up and down on the floor. And we don’t start by going around in circles like crazy.
– Mia Bernstein ’23
The cut comes as a heavy blow after COVID-19 has already inflicted that on the team. “Recruiting is always difficult, but COVID-19 has just crushed that aspect,” explained Massaro, who started his own career in the ballroom in the classroom. “But we are very open to people. It’s totally discreet.
Mia Bernstein ’23, the club secretary, agreed, adding that every social activity begins with a half-hour beginner’s lesson. “The dances range from pretty easy like ‘you walk in a box at a really slow pace’ to ‘you spin like crazy up and down on the floor.’ And we don’t start by going around in circles like crazy, ”she said.
Getting involved can seem intimidating, but Massaro and Bernstein quickly dispelled that. Massaro commented that after her first class, she left thinking the ballroom, her supposedly easy PE credit, sucked. But she had to go back for the credit, and she found it was getting easier. She was ultimately flattered – or perhaps harassed – to join the team by the former club president.
Bernstein, a dance major, was looking for a club to make her dance outside of the studio, but was quick to add that she was the only club manager who came to Bates with dance training.
Ballroom teaches you much more than dancing. It also requires developing meaningful non-verbal communication skills with your partner. Couples are divided into “leaders” – traditionally men – and “followers” - traditionally women. “You form a kind of bond that’s really hard to describe,” Massaro said, struggling to find words to properly describe the bond she developed with her dance partner.
That’s part of why the pandemic hit the team so hard: With social distancing, dancers couldn’t train in pairs. They could still repeat the steps, but they had to learn what to do with their arms, which are traditionally intertwined with their partner’s.
Capacity limits and travel restrictions meant competitions were not a possibility either.
Bernstein also spent time examining some of the history behind various ballroom dances. Staples like tango were appropriated from Latin and Anglicized cultures, and she was interested in exploring the diversity behind what we call “ballroom.”
To celebrate their pandemic successes, the club hosted a club showcase that also featured the Deans, Crosstones, BatesSpitz, the Chemistry Club and many other groups on campus.
While it was great to see them virtually all in action, now can you see them in person. Meet at the Benjamin Mays Center – in your best socks, of course – on Saturday, October 9 at 7 p.m. The beginner’s course will last until 7:30 p.m., and then you can go all night!
If you want to join the Ballroom Team, the group offers introductory lessons every Monday in the Merrill Gym multipurpose room at 7 p.m.