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

Hooked on Ballroom Dancing

By Jessamine Kuehn

My first exposure to ballroom dance was swing dancing with my dad on Christmases and at weddings. I have vivid recollections of being whirled around in front of the gigantic Christmas tree at my uncle’s house, with In the Mood by Glenn Miller playing loudly in the background. The Jitterbug Swing is a dance that I’ve always loved— it’s fast paced and exciting, with amusingly named dance moves such as dishrags, shin splints, and pretzels. I could never get enough of energetically twirling around the dance floor to the upbeat and lively swing music.

Though I attempted to hone my swing dancing skills with friends and YouTube tutorials, I soon realized that it would be much easier to learn if I took an actual ballroom dance class. Recognizing that my family’s busy schedule conflicted with any local classes I could find, I decided to set up a ballroom dance club at my high school, Eagle Ridge Academy. I emailed the University of Minnesota Ballroom Dance Club president, and he helped me to find a teacher, Mrs. Nehrbass, and to set up lessons at my school.

I had no idea what I was getting into. I made fliers and tried to convince as many people as possible to join, eventually gathering a group of a dozen dancers. We set up six lessons, and in those lessons we learned six dances: waltz, foxtrot, tango, cha cha, rumba, and of course, swing. It was fast paced and more fun than I had imagined. We learned promenades, crossover breaks, and tuck turns, and I was thrilled with it all (though I still haven’t quite figured out the hip movements for the rumba).

After our fourth lesson, our teacher informed us of Dance Fest this spring, and we decided to compete. We certainly won’t be the best dancers on the floor with less than 20 hours of practice under our belts, but we’ll definitely be among those enjoying themselves the most. Now I am working on setting up practices and preparing for the competition, and I am super excited!

Learning how to ballroom dance has been an amazing experience. Not only have I learned the basic steps to six ballroom dances, but I have also gotten to know the other members of the club, making connections with them through an activity that I love. Setting up and running this club has helped me to become much more comfortable leading and organizing a group of people. I truly enjoy dancing with both my family and my club members, and I will always treasure my experiences of ballroom dancing.