December 18th, 2006



So Sunday I went down to Dancesport on Nent's invitation to meet the team and decide if I wanted to join. I'd already talked to Todd, a guy from work who was a very experienced ballroom dancer when he joined Epic and whom I pointed to the dance groups in Madison, and he'd given them a rave review and joined the team, so this was basically to see how it felt.

First, they were very nice people. Unlike other groups, I did not get any sense of condescension from anyone, nor was I made to feel like I was auditioning. The team was somewhat insular but at no point did they feel closed off so I believe this is simply the natural result of training with a small group of people rather than any sort of elitism. Most of the people I recognized were leads from UWMBDA dances. The follows I didn’t recognize, though one young lady recognized me from UWMBDA so I suspect the lack of recognition on my part was not the result of the follows not going social dancing so much as faults of my memory.

I should point out there was a second group of dancers there, not affiliated with the team. These were older dancers, varying from around their 30’s to the late 50’s, all there as active students. The two groups did not socialize to any degree, a fact I find rather regrettable.

In addition to socializing and the food, there was also gift giving in the part of lessons from Dakota and Gwen – the teachers – to the older social dancers, and awards to the team members. I learned that the team is only two years old but has already placed sixth in nationals, a rather extraordinary achievement. Dakota also gushed about the dedication the team has shown and though he very publicly disavowed expecting such dedication, I suspect he is growing used to a high level of commitment.

As is invariably the case when a number of dancers get together, dancing ensued. Everyone present was an excellent dancer and – I say this without any embarassment or false modesty – significantly better than me. Several of them no doubt had training prior to joining Dancesport (most likely with BBDT as Dancesport got its start splitting off from them) but others were, I am told, new dancers. This speaks very highly of both the teachers’ skill at teaching and again the dedication of the students.

The style of ballroom they did was very technical. Think less the immersive dance scenes of movies like Take the Lead, Swing Kids, and Shall We Dance, and more… well I can’t think of any cinematic comparison because true competition ballroom tends to look too artificial for most films. This is not to say that they are bad dancers or that they can’t dance socially but that the focus is, as I suspected, quite firmly on competition ballroom. While I do not know how Dakota and Gwen teach, it means that a great deal of what they teach will be technique, styling, and so on. It will be less exciting than classes purely for social dance but inevitably more helpful as competition training converts to social dancing far better than the other way around.

At this point I am not convinced Dancesport is the right place for dancing, but it does feel like the right place for people and I tend to prioritize people so I’m going to try it for a semester.