Ballroom dance club “swings” into safe dancing

Pictured above are the members of the “Queues” Team, Tech students who developed the game-changing app. The app can be found on the App store and Google Play store. // Photo courtesy of Samuel Porta

There are a variety of skills to be learned at Tech, from computer science to communication to efficiently navigating East Campus while avoiding Freshman Hill.

Among the lesser known lessons to be learned as a Jacket is ballroom dance.

Ballroom Dance Club is a student-led sports club. In this club, students can practice and compete in ballroom dance.

The club hosts a variety of different events throughout each semester, including socials, weekly lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and competition trips.

“Our big events are our three socials,” Erin Wrobel, third-year MATH, said.

“We usually have about one per month, and those consist of intro lessons and social dancing.”

“The first one is free and after that, it’s about five dollars for students.”

Wrobel serves as the competitive coordinator of Ballroom Dance Club, which among other things, puts her in charge of organizing competitive trips as well as the annual ballroom dance competition hosted by the club.

“We host our own competition every February,” Wrobel said. “We also go on about three or four competition trips to other schools or other states per semester.”

Competitions, however, are only a small part of what the club does.

“We have choreography lessons, which are based on beginning-of-the-semester tryouts and usually happen in partnership, so you will have a designated dance partner if you’re on the competition team, and you learn the choreographies with them,” Wrobel said.

“Once you get out of choreography lessons, you get to go to off-campus professional technique lessons.”

There are also open practices on Wednesday and Saturday nights, to which anyone can come.

The club plays music, and everyone does their own dance practices.

This semester, however, the club is looking different.

As a sport involving two people dancing in close proximity, it’s hard to navigate what Ballroom Dance Club looks like in these times.

“We’re still having social lessons,” Wrobel said.

“We’ve recently been able to connect those much more in person, because we got approval from sport clubs.

“Currently those are happening in person, just distanced away from each other.”

“We have people standing six feet apart acting like they’re dancing with each other while not actually touching.”

The other lessons have taken different forms to be the most useful while still as safe as possible.

“A lot of the lessons are still happening, just with more distancing protocols in place,” Wrobel said.

“At first we were doing virtual lessons, and most of our lessons are still virtually available.”

“We had a competitive practice Friday night, and we have transformed that into more of a drills class, and our Wednesday night open practice has turned into a student-led technique class, because that would be more useful than just having an open practice where nobody’s allowed to dance with each other.”

While in-person competitions are not taking place, the club is still able to record videos of solo events and send them to competitions.

Wrobel says her favorite aspect of the club is by far the people, and this has not changed with the new safety and distancing protocols implemented by the club.

“My best friends in college have come from ballroom dance,” she said.

“It’s obviously more sad this semester, because I’m not allowed to dance with people, but to the extent that I’m allowed to interact with them, they’re literally my favorite people, and it’s just a really fun and supportive community.”

A unique aspect of the club is that no dance experience is required.

Wrobel herself had very little dance experience going in and learned all of her ballroom dance skills during her time with her club.

“You can take beginner lessons as many times as you would like until you feel comfortable with it, but also our beginner lessons are really well taught and we have plenty of opportunities for you to practice the skills,” she said.

Even if you have no dance experience whatsoever, it’s really easy to still be able to make progress, and no matter what you come to, you’ll still be able to dance something by the time you leave.”

But the education that participants receive goes beyond learning not to step on toes.

“There’s lots of different life skills that are built in it, like being able to interact with other people and consideration for what your partner is doing or comfortable with and relationship building skills,” Wrobel said.

“If you’re in a dance partnership, even if it’s not a romantic relationship, it’s still another human in your life, whose actions are highly intertwined with yours.”

“That’s a really positive skill to be able to build, as well as building adulting skills in general,” Wrobel concluded.

During this time it is important to take breaks from everyday stressors and pursue outlets for creativity and connection.

Ballroom dance club provides such an outlet for all students, no matter their experience or skill level.

The club is a great way to feel less isolated on campus during the pandemic.

Students seeking to get involved with Ballroom Dance Club can sign up for events at mycrc.gatech.edu and gatech.campuslabs.com.

Students must register with mycrc.gatech.edu to get into the CRC.

Students can also check out the ballroom dance website at ballroomdance.gtorg.gatech.edu or reach out to [email protected] for more information.