Some of you may know I started my ballroom dance journey in college. I was a fan of Dancing with the Stars, and so when my university hosted their club fair the first week of freshman year I bee-lined to the ballroom dance club table. They didn’t even need to sell me on it, I just walked up and reached for the pen to sign up haha. And being me, before attending a single class I knew I wanted to join the competitive team.
I uncovered a hidden talent and was instantly hooked, remaining active on the team for all four years of college, even serving as team captain for two of those. Here are some of the many reasons why I think collegiate ballroom is awesome:
- Lessons are WAY more affordable than in the “real world”, instructors often donate their time or teach at a highly subsidized student rate. At my university we paid ~$30 per semester to attend team practices twice a week. I didn’t not appreciate this enough at the time, but holy cow am I grateful now that I know what ballroom lessons actually cost.
- Collegiate competitions are super affordable too. I think most collegiate comps I attended were $25 per person and you could do UNLIMITED entries! ..I’ll give you a minute to pick your jaw up from the floor…For context at normal ballroom comps you’ll usually pay $25-$50 per entry – aka that’s what dancing the tango for 60-90 seconds will cost you. This low price at collegiate comps encourages students to participate and dance multiple styles and levels. So for example, I might dance bronze and silver level in standard and latin all for $25. UH-MAZE-ING.
- It’s a great way to make friends. What better way to bring people together than through a common experience of learning something new together. Plus, you are all laughing through the awkwardness of suddenly being in close contact with the opposite gender. Seriously, in less than a month of classes students on the ballroom team will be some of your closest friends.
- You might even meet someone you want to date. Seriously, the majority of people on our ballroom dance team ended up dating someone else on the team. What can I say? There’s something about making eye contact in the rumba that can really make sparks fly. Check out this post I did if you want to read more about the topic.
- It’s good exercise. We’ve all heard of the dreaded freshman 15, so why not find an exercise program that doesn’t even feel like exercise. Some of the faster dances like chacha, samba, and jive can burn over 500 calories an hour.
- It helps you get plugged in on campus. Joining a club or sports team helps you feel more connected and makes a big college campus less daunting. When you find your niche and make friends you are bound to have a wonderful time in college. Having an extra-curricular looks good on your resume, but it also forces you to develop good time management skills.
- It helps develop the next generation of dancers. Not everyone has the privilege of starting ballroom dance as a kid, so it’s great to expose more people to the world of ballroom dance. After graduating from college many just enjoy the occasional night out swing dancing, but some go on to form amateur partnerships and compete on the circuit. Others might pick up pro-am or even become a dance instructor themselves.
- It gives you the opportunity to develop leadership skills. Leadership positions vary between ballroom organizations, but you may be able to manage club finances, be a competition chair, choreograph routines, or maintain your team website and social media pages. As team captain my sophomore year, I had to learn to communicate with the juniors and seniors on the team in a way that they would respect me and take me seriously. I went in front of our student government to petition funding to send some of our members to an out of state competition for our first time ever. I led an organization with 40+ members and did my best to ensure everyone had a positive experience.
So how big is the world of collegiate ballroom dancing? In Texas alone, (where I’m from) we had 5 universities with ballroom programs – UT Austin, Rice University, University of Houston, Texas A&M, and Southern Methodist University (where I went). And across the whole U.S. you’ll find more than 50 universities with ballroom dance clubs. Pretty cool! Here is one of the more comprehensive lists I could find of collegiate ballroom programs.