Blast is Back!
Why You'll Definitely See Me There This Year
By Alexzandra Enger
Fall has returned, and with it so has the commencement of dozens of ballroom dance clubs across the country. Right now, the end goal for the competing teams is USA Dance Collegiate Nationals, taking place in November, alongside the wildly popular Ohio Star Ball. The weeks and months leading up to the very sparkly weekend (If you've been there before and haven't browsed the dress vendors, you're doing something wrong. If this is your first time, carve out a few hours to try on all the fancy things.) will be witness to rounds upon rounds and endless critiques from your coaches and teammates, all designed with the intent of improving your performance in mind. When it all comes down to it though, what our fellow competitors and instructors see and feel the need to critique, may not be what the judges see, or are even looking for. Clearly the assumption is that the best preparation is critique from the judges who'll be giving you marks at competitions.
At Ballroom Blast, hosted by the University of Minnesota's Ballroom Dance Club and U Partner Dance, Inc. in October of every year, you get exactly that, and my partners and I love it. Experienced ballroom dance professionals give us handwritten critiques on each dance, but since there's no pressure about trying to outperform the others on the floor we always hit the boards stress-free. Heats are restricted to a small number of couples, so I know the feedback from the judges that I read later is honest and not just a comment written down because they didn't have time to look at us. All too often I see couples not move on to the next round because of too many dancers on the floor at one time for everyone to be noticed. Thankfully, there's none of that at Blast.
Beyond that, there's an incredible sense of community and friendship all throughout the day. The goal isn't to beat our competitors, so the camaraderie flows freer than it does at any competition. While I'm absolutely enamoured with the competitive side of ballroom dance, what initially drew me to the sport was the overwhelming sense of inclusion; everyone is welcome in ballroom, and so everyone is welcome at Ballroom Blast. Nobody's exhausted to the point of falling asleep in the bleachers or under the racks in the dressing rooms, because you're not running in circles to dance in numerous rounds. You won't get stuck in a corner doing check step after check step because you got boxed in by other dancers. You won't accidentally fling an errant arm into another competitor during your crossover breaks. What you will do is cheer on your friends, and there's nothing better than seeing someone's face light up after they hear their number called out by someone on the sidelines. I know I love it, and there's a palpable change in my partner's energy when he hears our number too, and this helps us perform with greater confidence. Anyone who says confidence on the dance floor isn't noticeable and isn't an asset is simply lying to you.
My favorite part comes later; the Halloween Dance. The lights go down, the costumes come out, and the competition floor widens to create one awesome social dance floor. This is my favorite social dance of the whole year because the crowd is unlike any other. It's a mix of familiar faces that I haven't seen in a long time and new ones I'm excited to meet. The collegiate crowd has such a special energy, and while I can social dance at dozens of places in the twin cities or go to dances with any untold number of college students, it's rare to find the perfect merger of the two groups. Our favorite DJ always keeps the crowd's energy high with strategically-chosen social dance music and themed songs before starting into the costume contest. (There are cash prizes, and if that's not enough to get you to go all out I don't know what is!) At the end of the night, nobody's particularly happy to leave, but everyone does depart happy, looking forward to the next time they'll run into their new friends.