Tech’s Ballroom Dance Club waltzes to success

Chris Gibbs, treasurer of Ballroom Dance Club, dances with his partner Nicole Diaz at a recent competition. // Photo courtesy of Lucas Erlandson

By participating in the recent National Collegiate DanceSport Championships and USA Dance Nationals from April 1-3, the Ballroom Dance Club at Georgia Tech has earned a sixth place overall national ranking. 

“While we had alumni competing alongside the team, the ranking only includes our current collegiate competitors, of whom the vast majority were newcomers who began dancing this year or even this semester,” said Chris Gibbs, first-year IE and current treasurer of the club. “We were up against some teams more than double our size, so we’re very proud of that.” 

Every year, the Ballroom Dance Club’s competition team travels to compete at collegiate and adult competitions around the United States, such as the Southeastern DanceSport Championship, the Ohio Star Ball, the Arnold DanceSport Classic and others. 

“This was our team’s third competition of the semester and fifth of the year,” Gibbs said. “Our dances have been highly competitive at each.” 

In the most recent competition, Gibbs and his dance partner, Nicole Diaz, third-year BMED, received national rankings in the bronze division for the tango and mambo dance style. Over half of the other couples on the competition team also received similar or better rankings in other divisions and dance styles.

“Experiencing a ballroom competition is just amazing,” said Brittney Bush, third-year CS and current president of the Ballroom Dance Club. 

“You work so many hours in practice to just go out there and show the judges what you can do … You also get to dress up and wear an obscene amount of hairspray and makeup, which is just fun.” 

In addition to attending competitions around the country, the Ballroom Dance Club organizes its own competition at Tech.  

“We also host our very own annual Helluva Dance Competition here on campus, and this year, it’s coming up on April 16,” Gibbs said. 

“We’re hosting it at the CRC this year … we’ll be welcoming teams from five other universities and some local dance studios. Immediately following the all-day competition, we’ll be moving over to the Exhibition Hall for our last social dance of the year, the Helluva Social. ”

Organizing the event, which will involve over 100 dancers, has required much effort from members of the Ballroom Dance Club. 

“Our club has an entire committee dedicated to running this ballroom competition composed of current members and alumni to make the event come together,” Bush said. 

“Overall, it has been a lot of work, but we are very excited to host so many dancers this weekend and give our students an opportunity to compete quite close to home.”

Outside of competitions, the Ballroom Dance Club also offers six social dances a year and weekly lessons to foster a sense of community and teach newcomers about ballroom dancing.

“Most of the events that we host are socials for the Tech and Atlanta community,” Bush said. “We start the event with a beginner lesson of a couple styles, and then we have an evening of good music and fun dancing as people ask each other to dance with each new song.”  

Individuals who enjoy their time at a social event can attend lessons to learn more about the technique behind the dances. The first lesson is always free, but dues are required for repeated participation. 

“We teach weekly beginner and intermediate social lessons, where we start from scratch at the beginning of each semester to teach members up to 10 styles of ballroom and Latin dance,” Gibbs said. 

Students who learn various dance styles through the social lessons can then try out for the competition team every semester at the beginning of the term. 

Gibbs encourages interested students to attend an event, adding that the inclusivity of Tech’s Ballroom Dance Club makes it especially an organization for dancers of all backgrounds. 

“While the worldwide ballroom dance community, especially on the professional level, is still making progress in terms of inclusion, our club has been on the forefront of change,” Gibbs said. 

“In our club, we want people to enjoy dancing, so we have people pick whichever role they prefer. Don’t let a particular gender identity or its association deter you from checking it out. We have talented female leaders, male follows and non-binary dancers who each adapt their performance to their own personality.” 

Bush likewise tells students to reach out if they are interested in getting involved with the Ballroom Dance Club, describing her many favorite memories from being in the organization. 

“The Ballroom Dance Club has provided me an outlet to exercise, make amazing friends and express myself through movement,” Bush said. 

“For myself and many others, going to practice is our escape from the stress of being a student here at Tech … There are a plethora of fun moments both in lessons, at practice and at competitions.”