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Gaining Perspective

Celebrating Dance Birthdays

By Joel Torgeson

Fall into Dance
Mid-morning sunlight reflecting off the polished stone floors greeted me as I carried my backpack and a box of supplies into the Great Hall. I set the box down on the table and ran back out to help Kevin find a good parking space so we could start unloading equipment. In just under two hours, that shining floor would be (hopefully) covered in first-time dancers, and we did not intend to disappoint.

As I put speakers on stands and ferried watermelon, I thought back two years' time to my first ballroom experience at this selfsame event. I distinctly remember how my good friend Jack O’Leary came into my dorm room and charismatically informed me, “We’re going, so put your shoes on!” I briefly considered declining, that being my last day of freedom before classes started, but ultimately the peer pressure and lack of better alternatives won out. I didn’t know it at the time, but my ballroom journey had begun.

Now, two years later, I walked out onto the floor as the president of the club and introduced over 140 brand-new dancers to what would be, for many, their first experience partner dancing. We danced rounds of smooth and rhythm to give the uninitiated a taste of where they were going, then had our lovely instructor Kate Bratt teach them a few steps.

I couldn’t help wishing that somebody had taken a video of me dancing that day two years ago. My primary motivation, of course—competitive as I am—is to show just how far my technique and expression have come in those two years, but beyond that, it would be nice to have some record of my ballroom birthday. Back when my bad habits weren’t ingrained by hours of practice and I didn’t know the difference between international and American styles (much less why I should care). I often wonder if I would have ever found ballroom if I hadn’t attended this event my freshman year, which is odd to think about. Most who know me would agree that it is not a stretch to say that ballroom has defined a lot (though certainly not all) of my life these past two years, so I’d be curious to see what an alternate universe where I don’t dance might hold.

This also makes me curious: What is your dance birthday story? When did you start? Why did you start? Have there been any significant gaps of time where you did not dance? When talking to others about ballroom, I often find that the stories behind how people come back to dance are often the most intriguing and compelling.

Beyond that, it’s been a great first three weeks of the semester, and I’m proud to say that the club is on track to have another excellent year. Elena Bersten of Dance with Us America has joined Kate to fill out our instructors for the year, and we are excited for our students to work with these two! We’ve also rearranged our schedule to allow us to go out social dancing around the Cities now and then, so expect to see the club out and about this semester. We’ve had over 160 students in the door already this semester, so it will be exciting to see where numbers end up!

Well, reader, I’ve got statistics homework weighing me down and a dance lesson in half an hour. Happy ballroom birthday to me, and happy ballroom dancing to you! I hope to see you out on the floor.