By Libby Ryan
By Sunday afternoon, many of the dancers at Dance Fest had been dancing for a day and a half, but there were still couples running up to enter a spur-of-the-moment registration for the final events of the weekend. The ballroom remained packed with enthusiastic dancers until the last song finished playing and the last ribbons were awarded.
Dance Fest saw more than three hundred dancers and four hundred unique spectators in the two days of the event, held at Dancers Studio after only thirty days of preparation. More than thirty volunteers worked the event, keeping things running smoothly.
Katie Menk, who ushered dancers into lines in the on-deck area, said the first rounds of the competition were less difficult to manage than expected. "It was a bit hectic with the newcomers, but it was nice to see them get the hang of it by the finals."
Some of the largest of the newcomer heats held more than fifty couples, over one hundred new dancers lining up to dance in one of their first competitive rounds.
Kevin Viratyosin, half of the winning partnership for all three newcomer smooth events, said he was a little bit in shock after getting the results of his dancing. "I had to think about smiling for the first couple rounds," he said. "And now I can't stop."
That eager energy continued nonstop into Saturday evening's team matches, with twenty-six different teams screaming for the couples representing their school. Dancers and spectators alike stood on chairs and chanted cheers over the music while the couples on the floor pulled out every step in their repertoire to stand out.
Scholarships donated by local ballroom enthusiasts and professionals were awarded to the highest-placing teams in the team matches, as well as various other events throughout the weekend. A University of Wisconsin - Madison team took first place in the American team match, followed by the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities and the University of Iowa.
More than fifteen schools sent dancers to Dance Fest, some having driven more than five hours to participate in the event. Individuals from local studios also competed in syllabus and non-syllabus dances.
Hannah Scholbrock, a dancer from Luther College, said their entire ballroom club worked for months in preparation to dance their best. "Our club went above and beyond to get ready," she said.
The hallways leading into the main ballroom were continuously filled with dancers nervously awaiting callback results, gulping down water in between rounds, and sneaking in extra practice in any space available. Menk, from her post at the on-deck area, saw the different teams supporting their dancers through multiple rounds throughout the day.
"It's great to see teammates bring water and food to the people dancing for a long time," she said. "It warms my heart."
More heartwarming was the general atmosphere of the event. In the dressing rooms, girls chatted about dresses while hairspray was passed around without thought to teams or rivalry. The social dances packed the floors with partnerships from different schools, even with the sometimes fierce competition between dancers during syllabus events.
Cody Arndtson, from Luther College, danced in newcomer, bronze, strictly, and Jack and Jill events and said the level of talent in all styles impressed him.
"The dancing level bar was set high," he said. "It was really beyond my expectations."