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All about That Bass(line)

Ballroom, Music, and Me

By Chelsea Visser

Everybody has a different reason for joining ballroom: the friends, the aesthetic of bow ties and beautiful dresses, the chance for interaction with people from a different college/major/gender. For me, it was the music.

I’ve always been a music junkie, from the day I got my dad’s old Walkman and a Backstreet Boys CD. From high school marching band to car sing-alongs with friends, from Broadway to Backstreet Boys to Bastille, music has always been something close to my heart. So it’s fitting that it was the music that caught my attention.

It was welcome week my freshman year, and the entire hockey stadium was filled with school groups and organizations trying to get the attention of thousands of bewildered teenagers. I was walking through the crowd with a free sample of bubble tea when I heard a familiar guitar riff around the corner. I had gotten an album by The Black Keys over the summer, and I would recognize “Gold on the Ceiling” anywhere. I rounded the corner, and up there on the stage were the representatives from the Ballroom Dance Club.

Honestly, I sort of fell in love.

Fast-forward a few weeks to the first week of lessons. I had had my two free classes and was sitting around during the social dance watching some of the more experienced students taking their turns on the floor. I was new, and shy, and who was I kidding? I couldn’t dance! I had tripped on my own feet walking up the stairs to the gym!

Someone announced that the last song of the night was a tango, and I instantly recognized the chords that blared through the speakers. It was the titular song from Phantom of the Opera, a show I’ve adored since I was a kid; my mom would play the soundtrack driving around town. I watched the couples take the floor, and the only thought in my head was, I need to learn how to do this. I brought the money for the semester’s lessons the next week, and I never looked back.

So now it’s almost two years later. I’ve danced to “Gold on the Ceiling” more times than I could possibly count, in ballrooms and bedrooms and backyards. I know more Rat Pack songs than your average baby boomer. I’ve got music from ballroom littered through my iTunes library and half-built playlists for assorted styles (I’ve got my swing playlist on in the background as I write this article). I’ve danced in living rooms, in parking lots, and in at least one Jimmy John’s when a hustle came on the radio. I have a habit of telling anyone who will listen that you can dance to whatever song is currently playing.

My favorite is when someone who knows I dance texts me with a song and a question: can you dance to this? I don’t always know the answer, and sometimes the answer ends up being a resounding no, but that’s never stopped me from having fun moving where the music takes me.