A publication to engage the dance community. Learn. Discuss. Contribute. Enjoy.

Ballroom Dancing: A Community Affair

By Hannah Alyea

Dance—this one word has gained a whole new meaning in my life this past year. If you haven't already guessed, last year was when I first started ballroom dancing. What I didn't know was how much this one activity would actually change my life. I have found a new passion, a wonderful new family, and a great workout. The thing that surprises me the most about ballroom dancing is just how many people are connected through this form of dance.

The people I've known to do ballroom regularly have not just made it an extra activity; it has become a part of that individual. I can't count the times I have gone over to a friend’s house and seen people making their way out of the kitchen bowling through a feather step, or reading textbooks and working on voltas simultaneously. I, too, am one of those ludicrous people, and since I have a large granite floor both in front of and behind my desk at work, I often practice during slow hours.

I work as a car rental sales agent at the Minneapolis airport, so I talk to a lot of people from all over world on a regular basis. Very rarely will you find me sitting at my desk without donning my ballroom team jacket. I can't help getting excited when people notice and ask if I do ballroom as they point to my very lovely jacket. I feel as though I could go on for hours about everything ballroom-related. Countless times, I hear, "Is that like Dancing with the Stars?" As I'm about to tell them how televised dancing compares to the competitions I attend, I realize that I don't always have time to talk to my customers for hours on end and that they probably want to get to their business meeting or vacation. But there are times I find people who have either dabbled or devoted much of their lives participating in this same ballroom sensation.

Not even an hour ago, I had just finished practicing an international foxtrot pattern behind my desk when a gentleman came from across the room with a gleam in his eye and asked, "Was that some foxtrot you were doing there?"

I responded, I assume with the same gleam, "Why, yes. Yes, it was." That's all it took.

We ended up talking for the rest of the hour. I found he had been ballroom dancing for about twenty years, mostly social dancing, and tried competing but didn't enjoy it as much as others. I even found that he had vacationed near my hometown several times. I, in turn, told him about the University of Minnesota Ballroom Dance Club and competition team and some of my current struggles in foxtrot. When I was recounting a story about some of my coaches, the gentleman already knew who they were.

It's this kind of interaction I would never have encountered without being involved in the fantastic sport of ballroom dancing. This weird, invisible web connects us all from every part of the world, no matter what language we speak. I find ballroom very similar to laughter; you don't have to know what language someone is speaking to know that they're laughing. The same thing goes for dancing. It has no language barrier; we are all doing the same thing and are able to understand one another.

So I sit here at my desk and marvel at this incredible art form that has consumed my life. I may get a lot of weird looks and people staring when I fill my time with some extra practice, but I wouldn't have it any other way. The only shame is that they don't know what they’re missing out on. Maybe I can help change that.