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A Night with the Stars

By Seth Westlake

As the semester comes to a close, we celebrate another successful year with the University of Minnesota Ballroom Dance Club. These last two short semesters saw amazing growth in dancing skill and technique from every single one of our club members. To celebrate the close of our ballroom and school years, we featured our second and final social dance of the year, A Night with the Stars. Bringing together beautiful outfits, stunning performances, and the best friends anyone could ask for, it was a truly a night of wonderment, awe, and, most of all, beautiful dancing.

Not only was this dance open to students from the University of Minnesota but also to the people of the community, plus special guests from other universities around Minnesota. We were proud to have hosted dancers from St. Olaf College as well as students that traveled more than three hours from Bemidji State University.

Ballroom is great at many things, including the improvement of social skills and coordination, but it shines in its ability to bring new people together. In just a single night, former strangers become our best friends. Everyone’s love for ballroom grows because of these connections. When students from other schools come to our dances and later leave wanting more, we know we've done an excellent job of making them feel welcome.

The name A Night with the Stars was chosen to match what we wanted the evening to become—not simply because we had the chance to dance with some of the best amateur couples in the nation (although that was an excellent perk) but also because the name captures a certain poise and tranquility. We danced indoors, but it was as though we were dancing under the evening sky. Stress melted away and everyone was happy, at least for a night.

As part of a competition team, I'm used to dressing my best several times each semester, but for many students, this was a night to shine, a chance to demonstrate all that they’d learned of ballroom over the course of the year. It's amazing to see the passion that grows inside people for this sport and how it develops with every lesson. The students that say to me, "I'm not the most coordinated," at the start of the semester always come back wanting more.

A special thanks to the performers and instructors we've had the pleasure to work with this year. Elena and Gene Bersten did an excellent job instructing our Thursdays this semester, and we wish them luck with their new baby on the way. Kate and Gordon Bratt had their own family addition this semester, and we were ecstatic to be able to work with them both. Our performers, many of whom help the competition team during the year, were very kind to provide their services at our dance, and we are endlessly grateful. Thank you to Michael Kasinkas and Taylor Wall, Dan and Rosemary O'Connell, Nic Westlake and Neli Petkova, and the amazing Nels Petersen and Theresa Kimler. A final and extra-special thanks to our dance coordinator, Tijen Peterson, plus all the amazing volunteers that made this dance possible.