Tech has a plethora of clubs, teams and groups for almost every kind of hobby or interest. Even with the campus wide emphasis on intellectual pursuits, Tech still has numerous intramural sports and even an archery club. With such a wide range of interests, it is not surprising to learn of Tech’s Ballroom Dance Club (GTBDC).
On Mar. 28, GTBDC hosted their Spring Fling, a dance party where they enjoy the evening, in addition to teaching a couple ballroom dances to those in attendance. This event allowed people new to ballroom dancing to be introduced to the art and for those who already enjoy the sport to spend time practicing and generally enjoying themselves. Hosting evening dances is but a small portion of what Tech’s BDC does, and the Technique was able to interview its officers to find out more about the club.
Technique: First off, how did the Ballroom Dance Club first form, and how long has it been active on campus?
GTBDC: The Georgia Tech Ballroom Dance Club was formed about nine or ten years ago, by a Chinese graduate student. Since then, we have been active pretty much every year, but I don’t think we were a very involved or competitive organization until a few years ago—most of our activities revolved around social dancing and simply learning steps until fairly recently. Previously, it seems that we would only hold one social a semester, whereas now we try to have about four to five — so about once a month — and go to abouttwo competitions a semester as well.
Technique: Is the club open to all members of the Georgia Tech community? What goes on at a typical meeting?
GTBDC: Yes, our club is open to everyone who is part of the Georgia Tech community — not only students, but also faculty and staff! Generally we have two types of meetings — practices and classes.
The classes are typically two hours long, and we have instructors present who teach new steps and techniques to our members. Most dances are learned separately (i.e. the men learn their part without the ladies and vice versa) before we pair people together.
Practice sessions are simply open studio times available for those students interested in refining and improving their techniques or steps, or resolving questions about the routines taught in the lessons. Typically the number of people who come to open practices is much lower than the number of people who attend the lessons, which makes it much easier to get one-on-one advice from more experienced dancers in the club.
We also do have monthly social dances or parties in the Georgia Tech Student Center, where we spend about an hour giving a lesson on two out of the several dances we teach in our classes, and then spend the rest of the night dancing socially. Since these events are free and open to the public, and no prior dance experience is required to attend, the parties are really a great way to test out ballroom dance and see if it’s something you’re interested in.
Technique: The term “ballroom dance” seems to encompass several styles. Are there any styles or techniques that the club likes to focus on?
GTBDC: Ballroom dance has four main styles — Standard, Latin, Smooth and Rhythm. These can be broken down into two groups, American Styles (Smooth and Rhythm) and International Styles (Standard and Latin). Smooth and Standard are more like what one typically imagines when they think of ballroom dancing — things like Waltz, Foxtrot and Tango are included in these groups, while Rhythm and Latin are more flirty (think Cha-cha or Samba). American and International styles are similar in that they have some of the same dances, but there are significant differences in the techniques and sequences used, which is why they are considered separate categories.
Our club teaches the International styles in our lessons, although some members like to learn American styles on their own time during open practice.
Technique: Is this strictly a club for learning, or is there some level of competition involved as well?
GTBDC: Most members simply come to learn and dance socially, although we do have a small group of people who do frequently compete as well. We are trying to encourage more of our students to get involved in competitions, especially those who are new and have never attended one before, since these events are usually lots of fun.
Typically we attend collegiate-level competitions, where we send our couples to compete against those from other schools in a two-day event. Most of the competitions are out of state; our most recent was in Ohio, and all but three of our competing dancers advanced through the rounds, with two couples taking first place in their levels.
Technique: Do you think that activities such as dance are important in a relatively stressful environment like Tech?
GTBDC: Definitely. It’s important to have a hobby or something that can help you unwind after a stressful week — which is precisely what ballroom dancing is great for! Plus you get physical exercise for at least two hours a week (or more, if you come practice) and the social aspect is also really wonderful too. Everyone in the club is very friendly, and our experienced dancers are always willing to get to know and help new faces. It’s a great way to make new friends and meet new people.
Technique: How big is the club these days, and do you have any particular plans for the future?
GTBDC: Currently the club is pretty small — we have about thirty or forty paying members right now, and the number that regularly attends our lessons is less than that. But we’d love to welcome new people and introduce anyone who’s interested in dancing to ballroom, even if they’ve never danced before.
As far as plans for the future, we’re hoping to get more involved on campus and with the other dance organizations here at Tech, at other nearby schools, and in Atlanta to give our members the best dance experience they can get while they’re here.