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MIT Dancers Brave the Elements, Fare Well at Tufts

By Jessica Lee


Despite the snowstorm that dumped several inches of snow on Boston, the notice that the Tufts University Ballroom Dance Competition would take place on Sunday as planned arrived by e-mail Saturday afternoon.

Valiant participants braved the drive on icy roads, the $15 taxi fare, or the twenty-minute hike through the winter wonderland between the Davis T stop and the university to dance in sleeveless, backless, skirtless Latin costumes in an unheated gym. Indeed, the weather took its toll on participation: attendance was cut by over one-half. With fewer people, events ran ahead of schedule. Yet even in this sparse setting, the MIT team performed brilliantly. The team has had a winning season in fall 2003, and the trend continued at Tufts, especially at the newcomer level.

The ballroom dance team saw an influx of shining newcomers this fall, dominating at Harvard and at Brown, the two largest competitions of the season. Newcomers qualify as those who have been dancing only since September 1, 2003. At Harvard, 17 institutions were in attendance, and MIT couples placed first in both newcomer events. At Brown, 32 schools competed, and MIT took two out of the six spots in each newcomer final, except American Foxtrot, and was only a single point behind first place in the Christina Cryan Newcomer Team Match.

Perhaps more astounding is the consistency with which some newcomer couples throttled their opponents. Not every member of the team has a steady partner, but those newcomers who do have one seem well-paired to say the least. Vladimir Dizhoor and Esther Ryvkina ’02 placed first in every event they entered at Brown except American Foxtrot. Jonathan Lyles and Donna Nguyen placed in every newcomer event at Cornell’s October competition, taking first in American Tango and International Waltz. Joe Pompei PhD ’02 and Jin Zhou G took first place in six out of eight events at Tufts, competing against 40-60 couples in each event. The other two newcomer events, American Cha Cha and Swing, were won by Philip Kong MBA ’02 and Rayane F. Moreira.

MIT truly dominates not only in quality but also in sheer strength of participation at all levels. We sent 66 competitors to Tufts, outnumbered only by Harvard and Tufts. At the open level, MIT took first or second place in every style: Bill Liteplo SM ’00 and Michelle Goldhaber, first in the American Rhythm 5-dance; Bill Liteplo and Ika Setyawati, second in the American Smooth 4-dance with Eric R. Nielsen SB ’00 and Michelle Goldhaber fifth; Carlos A. Lopez SB ’03 and Genevieve T. Cuevas G, second in the International Latin 5-dance.

MIT swept first through fourth place in the Open Standard 5-dance category: Tom Nugent SM ’99 and Reena Freedman in first, Boris Berdnikov SB ’98 and Carrie L. Sougnez in second, Bill Liteplo and Ika Setyawati in third, Dejan Mircevski and Danielle Brown in fourth. In Standard and Latin, every experience level except one saw an MIT couple in the top five.

The ballroom dance team members who made the trek to the Tufts competition that snowy Sunday in December were well rewarded. By the end of the day, the snowfall had ceased, and the competitors emerged with 35 ribbons: 14 firsts, 7 seconds, 3 thirds, 11 finalists, and golden prospects for the spring 2004 season.