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A "Fresh" Perspective

By Kelley Izatt

Ballroom dancing? Had you asked me what that was a year ago, I probably would have stared blankly at you and said something along the lines of, "Oh, you mean like Dancing with the Stars?" Before coming to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, I was a member of my high school competitive show choir, a performance group in which I was allowed to sing, dance, and of course, wear flashy costumes. I thrived on the excitement I felt when I stepped onto a stage, felt the heat of the lights, and heard the crowd scream. By the time graduation rolled around, the activity had become a core part of who I was. I spent my first couple weeks of college missing home for this exact reason. I suddenly found myself trying to adjust to a completely new environment---an environment in which I wasn't performing, and one where the only person I really knew was my roommate. This lack of belonging left me feeling uncertain about the changes I was experiencing and somewhat hurt. I knew that I somehow needed to start dancing and/or singing again, but I didn't want to be a part of just any student group, or stretch myself too thin among varying activities. What I wanted was to find something I could commit myself to completely.

When I first heard about the University of Minnesota Ballroom Dance Club, I was somewhat skeptical. I couldn't imagine myself as a ballroom dancer, even though I'd had years of dance experience. I remember attending the club's promotional events in the fall to see what the sport was all about. I was fascinated by the simple concept of a "waltz basic" or a "rumba box." Regardless, something about ballroom intrigued me enough to audition for the competition team. Of course, nothing about an audition is completely stress-free, but I quickly realized how welcoming and encouraging the current members and officers were. They clearly wanted us to be comfortable, and I appreciated that. A few days passed, and I received word I had been accepted as a competition team member.

At the time, I certainly had no idea what to expect. As I look back now on the past year, I realize that I've learned two important things. The first being that nothing about ballroom dancing is easy. For example maintaining both a leftward position and my vertical line will always be a challenge. My second realization has been that while the sport may be difficult, my love for learning is what makes the experience worth it. Dancing is hardly about the results, but rather the journey as a whole. Certainly winning competitions is always the dream; however, at the end of the day, my dancing will only be as good as I allow it to be. Improvement takes time, commitment, and a good attitude. I wanted to participate in an activity I could invest myself in completely, and I feel fortunate to have found one. At times I wonder what my freshman college experience would have been like, had I not made that initial decision to step outside of my comfort zone, and try something completely new. Even my high school show choir friends were amazed by the concept of not having set choreography before walking out onto the competition floor! I've made my best friends while on this team, and as cliché as it may sound, I don't know where I would be today had these people not waltzed into my life at a time when I was lacking that crucial sense of belonging. Ballroom is a sport, a community, and most importantly, a place where one can feel safe. Regardless of the challenges I was faced with both academically and personally, ballroom practice would be there waiting for me three nights a week. I expect my future years as a competition member to be filled with excitement, growth, and of course an immense amount of happiness. I found my home, and for that I am forever grateful.