Luther College Chips

Ballroom and Swing takes Dance fest

Samuel Nunnikhoren (‘17) and Abby Mark (‘18) compete at the Dance Fest.

Samuel Nunnikhoren (‘17) and Abby Mark (‘18) compete at the Dance Fest.

Photo courtesy of U Dance Fest

Photo courtesy of U Dance Fest

Samuel Nunnikhoren (‘17) and Abby Mark (‘18) compete at the Dance Fest.

Lily Kime, Staff Writer

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The Luther College Competitive Ballroom and Swing team competed at the U Dance Fest competition in Minneapolis, MN, on March 4-5. This competition hosted by the University of Minnesota is the biggest competition that the Ballroom and Swing team attends during their year-long season.

At this competition, Kjerstin Nelson (‘18) with Brenna Sherman (‘19) and Yifeng Zhang (‘17) with Deanna Grelecki (‘19) made it to the quarter finals round in bronze Latin samba. Cody Arndtson (‘17) and Jessica Skjonsby (‘17) reached the quarter finals round in the combined silver level rhythm, cha-cha, rumba, and swing category. Jason Sczypiorski (‘18) and Nelson reached the quarter finals round in strictly Argentine tango, and Nathan Campbell (‘18) and Natalie Wade (‘18) went to the quarter final round in the dancers studio bronze standard foxtrot category.

In both the advanced mixed-proficiency American rhythm swing and advanced mixed-proficiency American smooth foxtrot, Henry Cravens (‘20) and Skjonsby went to the semi-finals. Campbell and Brenna Sherman (‘19) reached the semi-final round in the newcomer mixed proficiency international standard foxtrot, and Stephen Ster (‘17) and Helen Arneson (‘19) made it to the semi-final round in newcomer standard foxtrot and quarter finals in newcomer standard waltz.

All dancers at this competition dance at different levels that dictate who they compete against, what the judges are looking for in the dance, and what moves competitors can do, among other requirements. All first-year members dance at the newcomer level. According to three-year member and current Vice President of the team Nelson, dancers at this level primarily focus on knowing the timing of the dance and having good posture.

The next level that comes for dancers after their first year is the bronze level. This level places a great deal of emphasis on technique and more repertoire  than the newcomer level. The final level offered by the Luther’s Swing and Ballroom team is silver, which focuses on the technique of individual moves and connecting the moves. On the Luther team, each level has had unique challenges this season.

“Our newcomers have some really great technique because they’ve really been focusing on that,” Nelson said. “Our bronze level is really great with working with adaptability because there have been a lot of partner changes this year [with people studying abroad]. Our silver level hasn’t really gotten the chance to test ourselves, but the U Dance Fest is our chance to do that.”

Although the U Dance Fest is the biggest competition that the Luther College Swing and Ballroom team attends, they participate in several others as well. The team’s competitive season begins in the spring where the team will attend three different competitions in the midwest.

During a competition weekend, a couple could dance anywhere between six and 40 dances depending on whether or not judges decide to call them back for further rounds, according to three-year member Wade. For the beginning rounds, there can be up to 15 couples on the floor at a time with only four or five able to continue on, so the judges are making their decision very quickly and may base their initial decisions on the way a couple enters the floor, according to Nelson. During the final rounds, judges are able to make their decisions on which couples will place based on the couples’ technique and repertoire.

The teams are very supportive of everyone. Shouts of support are not only from one teammate to the other, but often from members of a team to a different team. According to second-year member Grelecki, these competitions are as much of a social experience as they are a competition.

“Because we are a student-led organization, I want our team to take pride in the fact that we created this team and we do well at these competitions,” Grelecki said. “I want us to see how well these other teams do and to recognize that they’re student-led as well. It’s a community between our team and other teams.”

This event acts as a primary competition for the team’s season, a chance to interact with other collegiate ballroom and swing clubs, and a challenge for newcomer dancers to test out their skills and experience what this huge competition is like. New member Laura Kalsow (‘17) is looking forward to the chance to show what she has learned through this past season of practices with the team.

“My goals for myself and other newcomers is that our smiles are genuine,” Kalsow said. “They’re not scared and forced. And I hope we take a moment to appreciate all of the work that we’ve put into this.”

The next event that the Luther College Ballroom and Swing team will sponsor is the second Annual Dancing with the Luther Stars, which will take place May 3. Social lessons are taught by members of the team and take place every Monday night at 8 p.m. in the North Gym of Regents Center. These lessons are open to all Luther students and community members interested in learning how to dance.

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