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Volunteer Report

Getting to Know Libby

By Mary Beth Beckman

Libby Ryan is swiftly becoming a household name amongst ballroom dancers. Over the past few months, she has contributed a great deal of smart, observant, useful journalism to our community and has no plans of backing down now. We know her stories, but I wanted our readers to get to know a bit more about her.

Originally I had intended to use Libby's answers to the following questions as the starting point for an article, but I found her responses so simultaneously interesting, informative, and charming that I've chosen to leave the interview intact and let her speak for herself.

How do you answer the vague prompt, "Tell me about yourself"?

Well, I am a journalism student (with a minor in political science, concentration in global health) at the University of Minnesota. For the summer and next semester, I am working full-time at MSP Communications fact checking and writing for Delta Sky Magazine. I’m also freelancing for a couple other local publications right now, which is a blast!

That’s pretty boring for such an open-ended question, so on the random side of things: I wish I had a British accent, because I’ve watched a few too many BBC TV shows; I take every opportunity to go see Broadway musicals—the Orpheum is one of my favorite places; and I love baking, especially anything with chocolate.

If there were one thing you could get on a soapbox about, what would it be?

The journalism school at the U has trained the soapbox out of me. I’m impartial journalism girl now.

How did you get involved in ballroom dancing, and what keeps you here?

I grew up with dance, starting with ballet when I was three, and bounced from style to style (ballet, modern, kick line, lyrical, musical theater) until graduating from high school. But I had always wanted to try ballroom and never knew how to start! So when I found the University of Minnesota Ballroom Dance Club, I became obsessed. I dived headfirst into everything ballroom I could get my hands on and danced as much as I could. I worked with the club’s board to bring the ballroom world to college students, jumped on every performance opportunity, and competed with some amazing partners. Then life came around, threw some hard choices at me, and I made the decision to pursue my writing dreams over my dancing dreams. Luckily, there’s Sheer Dance, where I can combine my love of dance with my love of writing! And of course, I can’t keep myself off the dance floor for long and can often be found out social dancing.

There’s something so delightful about ballroom dancing, in all of its forms. It’s absolutely classic and its appeal surpasses generation. That is what keeps me here, even though I don’t have quite as much time to devote to it anymore.

What do you wish we had more of in the local dance community?

There could always be more people and, from a purely selfish point of view as a follow, more leads!

What is your relationship with volunteering?

I’ve always been a volunteering kind of girl and love to have side projects beside work or school as a creative outlet. My career goals are very much in the news sector, so it is fun for me to do some arts writing on the side, plus keep myself tangentially involved in the ballroom world. I also like the challenge of dance photography.

Give me your thoughts on Sheer Dance.

Sheer Dance is wonderful because it both allows people to tell others about their own dance experiences and lets people like me to go in and find stories to tell. It’s nice to see a platform that will cover local performances and events, especially the ones that might not otherwise get that kind of attention. National events that get covered by big magazines and newspapers are amazingly impressive, but so much work goes into the smaller events, and everyone who participates in those should be able to see that reflected in print along with a review or story about their performance, just like the big names. It’s great that Sheer Dance gives that chance to all the extremely talented dancers we have here in our community, who otherwise might not get that recognition.

What are your short-term and long-term goals?

Right now, I’m focusing on graduating from college. Short-term, my focus is to find some more writing/photography/editing opportunities while balancing my current job at MSP and finishing up school (and hopefully still find time to pop out social dancing every once in a while). Then comes the scary part of finding a post-grad job ….

Long-term, my goal is to be working as an international correspondent writing about global health issues, focusing on individuals in areas dealing with crises and telling their stories. I’m struggling to learn Arabic right now, so I plan to spend at least a little time in the Middle East. The dream job is The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, or The Atlantic.

If someone recognized you at a social dance, how would you want them to approach you?

Come and ask me to dance! I’m the one generally singing to myself on the sidelines, if I’m not dancing at the moment. I can’t resist singing along to old standards. Even if I’ve got my camera out taking photos, I promise I’d love to dance!