Luther College Chips

Ballroom and Swing “blasts” off to a new season

President of Ballroom and Swing Team Kjerstin Nelson (‘18) dances during the social dance.

President of Ballroom and Swing Team Kjerstin Nelson (‘18) dances during the social dance.

Photo courtesy of Ballroom Blast’s Facebook page

Photo courtesy of Ballroom Blast’s Facebook page

President of Ballroom and Swing Team Kjerstin Nelson (‘18) dances during the social dance.

Grace Onsrud, Staff Writer

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The Luther Ballroom and Swing Club attended their first competition of the season in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Oct. 21. The event was called Ballroom Blast and was hosted by the University of Minnesota Twin Cities’ Ballroom Dance Club.

Unlike most competitions that the club attends during their spring season, this competition was for comments rather than placements and awards. Luther’s team attends Ballroom Blast every year because it provides them an opportunity to receive feedback from professionals that they use as they prepare for competitions in the spring. Luther brought 45 people to the event, which was almost the entire team. For many new team members, Ballroom Blast was their first time at a ballroom dance competition.

President of Ballroom and Swing Kjerstin Nelson (‘18) said that the event is a chance for new dancers to gain some experience on the dance floor.

“This competition is a really good event for all of the [newcomers] to see what a competition is like without the stress of actually competing.” Nelson said.

Photo courtesy of Ballroom Blast’s Facebook page
Helen Arneson (‘19) and Jason Hu (‘19) dance a tango together at Ballroom Blast in Minneapolis.

In most ballroom and swing dance competitions, dancers compete in six different categories: waltz, tango, foxtrot, chacha, rumba, and swing. Everyone on the team competes these dances, but at three different levels: newcomer, bronze, and silver. The judges watch the dancers all together and choose which pairs will go on to the next level. Ballroom Blast is different. Instead of choosing the best dancers to move up, the judges observe each pair from the edges of the dance floor and give them comments on how to improve. At Ballroom Blast, there are usually 10 to 12 pairs of dancers on the floor at a time.

Ballroom and Swing member Nathan Campbell (‘18) discussed the nature of the comments they received from the judges at Ballroom Blast.

“Having some outside feedback helps us know whether we are on the right track or we need adjustments in some areas.” Campbell said. “The comments ranged from ‘Love the energy/great smiles’ to ‘Your left hand is too high.’ The judges did a great job of providing constructive feedback to better our dancing.”

According to Ballroom and Swing member Matthew Dosland (‘19), many of the judges’ comments focused on technique, footwork, and posture, as well as compliments on energy and enthusiasm. During the first practice following this competition, the team discusses the feedback and talks about ways they can improve for future competitions.

“[The judges] let us know how we could improve our frame and overall presence on the dance floor,” Nelson said. “All of the wonderful comments received this weekend will be vital in our preparation for the spring competitions.”

Photo courtesy of Ballroom Blast’s Facebook page
Deanna Grelecki (‘19) and Matthew Dosland (‘19) dance together during their third Ballroom Blast as a partnership.

Luther’s Ballroom and Swing club is unique in that it is almost entirely student-led. They have a professional coach, April Dahl, in Rochester, Minnesota that they are able to work with a few times each semester, but for the most part, they teach each other. Vice President of the team Deanna Grelecki (‘19) said that even though they cannot work with their coach as frequently as other teams do, they are still competitive.

“I think that we do pretty well for ourselves at competitions,” Grelecki said. “We usually place and we’ve gotten comments from other teams that can’t believe that we don’t have a coach. It gives us a more cohesive dynamic because we are focused on learning as much as we can from each other. Everyone is learning and everyone is teaching.”
The chance to receive professional comments from the judges at Ballroom Blast is especially beneficial for Luther’s team because they are not able to work regularly with Dahl.

Attending social dances, such as the Halloween-themed one that took place immediately after the Ballroom Blast competition, is another way that members of the team gather new repertoire and techniques that they can pass on to the other dancers.

Luther Ballroom and Swing will return to the University of Minnesota for a formal competition this spring. They will also compete with other colleges in the Midwest such as the University of Northern Iowa and University of Minnesota Rochester.

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