The music crescendos, darting around the sharp contours of dancers’ bodies as the couples advance across the dance floor. The steps are soft, yet purposeful, each pair moving in between and around the other as if in conversation. With chins up and lips pursed, the dancers are completely composed — that is, until someone makes a silly face and everyone cracks a smile.
With an affectionate atmosphere, the Ballroom Dance Club at the College of William and Mary provides a getaway for many students.
“Life can be draining. I come here [to dance;] it’s an energy rush,” Kimberly Bordon ’16 said.
Club president Tori Savas ’15 and men’s team captain Brandon Kriesten ’15 began dancing with the club their freshman year. Looking for an organization where they could spend time together, they joined the Ballroom Dance Club. Initially concerned she was not coordinated enough, Savas was hesitant to join at first, but the enthusiastic and welcoming atmosphere of the club quickly drew both Kriesten and her in.
“I find ballroom dancing a kind of stress relief. When I’m ballroom dancing, I feel like I don’t have to worry about that project that’s due tomorrow,” Kriesten said. “It’s a place I can go to have a good time to exercise, be with friends, and leave everything at home.”
While Kriesten finds dancing an escape from college life, Savas utilizes the dance mindset to enhance her academic life.
“Ballroom dance requires a lot of focus,” Savas said. “So, it has definitely taught me to focus more in academia [and] my extracurricular activities.”
Now integral members of the group, Savas and Kriesten waltz and tango with both confident veterans and timid newcomers.
“I like the social aspect of the group,” Savas said. “It’s great retaining old members, seeing the newcomers improve so much in such a short amount of time, and seeing how much progress everyone has made at the competitions.”
Along with weekly practices and open lessons, the club participates in many competitions. The events range in difficulty and type of dance: from smooth dance like waltz, foxtrot and tango to rhythm dance like rumba, swing and the cha-cha.
While some dancers’ internal monologues may be plagued with repetitions of “don’t mess up, don’t mess up” during competitions, the competitors relish in the thrill of the experience.
“My favorite part is competing. [I like] going out, dressing up, putting it all out there on the floor,” Kriesten said. “After warming up, I feel confident and exhilarated and ready to compete. That’s what I love about competing.”
To prepare for competitions and practice the basics of ballroom dancing, the team captains teach the lead-follow dynamic. Traditionally, men lead and women follow — the lead has the responsibility of guiding the couple around the dance floor, whereas the follow has to respond to the lead, anticipating each subsequent move.
For Kriesten, involvement in the club has spurred a passion for the professional arena. Finding inspiration from World Champions of Latin dance Yulia Zagoruychenko and Riccardo Cocchi, Kriesten appreciates their height — or lack thereof.
“I really like them because they’re short like me. … I like them a lot,” Kriesten said.
Although some look to professionals for motivation, others simply dance for the enchanting feeling.
“When I waltz, I feel like a pretty princess,” Carlyn Hoffman ’15 said.
Along with plans to participate in more competitions, the club hopes to increase membership and involvement in the Williamsburg community. This year, club members performed at home for senior citizens and an elementary school, performing for and dancing with each group. The club hopes to broaden its activities into the greater Williamsburg area.
Whether students dance to find peace or to shake off college-induced stress, all have gained a greater appreciation for the art of ballroom dance.
“I love it. It’s a great way to meet people,” Kyle Aldridge ’16 said. “More people should do ballroom dance.”