Luther’s Ballroom and Swing Club Continues Through Pandemic

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Luther College’s Ballroom and Swing Club has been dancing the night away for over a decade, but social distancing has disrupted their typical practices and competition season. While the pandemic has certainly not changed the club’s mission, it has impacted how the club’s mission is realized. Instead of the typical three in-person practices a week, they’ve moved to two in-person and one Zoom rehearsal.
The club has two main teams, including the competitive dance team, consisting of around 50 members this year, and the social lessons. Right now, only the competitive team is practicing, but the club is hoping that social lessons can start up soon. Social lessons are open to anyone in the Decorah area, including students, professors, and community members.
“Those ones, anyone can come, you don’t have to have any experience,” Vice President of Ballroom and Swing Dancing Club Alison Merill (‘22) said. “Most of us didn’t have any experience when we started the team. We’ll be teaching dances that we can do by ourselves. Hopefully, they’ll start soon.”
Merrill described how the club has adapted to operate over zoom.
“We have a lot of videos we recorded prior to [COVID-19], and videos from professionals who help us out that are all on a private website that the team can access,” Merill said. “We share a video and watch it as a group and then talk about what we saw and how we can use that to work on our technique.”
In-person practices also look different. The club specializes in six dances: cha-cha, waltz, tango, foxtrot, rumba, and triple-step swing. Because these dances are partner dances, they are especially difficult to rehearse while remaining safe.
“When we work together as partners we are socially distanced but we still hold frame,” club member Camryn Nelson (‘24) said. “It’s like we are dancing together but we’re just not touching. It’s interesting, but it’s helpful to still have that shared connection between the lead and the follow.”
There’s no doubt that dancing so far apart is different from normal, but according to the club, it’s better than nothing, and it still allows for some relationship building.
“We’re doing our best to keep practice as normal as possible,” Competitive Education Chair Kira Dobberman (‘22) said. “We’re continuing to learn moves and technique, we’re running through the dances, and just having fun. It definitely doesn’t look like it normally does, but people are still excited about it, which is great.”
The competitive team is used to having four competitions a year, two per semester. The Minnesota Ballroom Blast competition, which normally happens in the fall, has been moved online. Competitors submit videos of them dancing and await critique from ballroom professionals.
“A few members of our team submitted videos,” Merrill said. “Unfortunately, we had a hard time getting prepared for this first one because we didn’t start school until much later.”
As for the other two competitions, which includes Dance Fest at the University of Minnesota on March 7 and 8 and Nationals in Chicago a few weeks later, whether or not they will happen is up in the air. The uncertainty has changed how Ballroom and Swing Dance Club are approaching the year, but has allowed the club to focus more on personal improvement for the competitive years ahead.

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