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Ballroom Dance Storms Manhattan Tournament

By Jessica Lee


Jan. 16 and 17 saw the USA Ballroom Dancers Associations Northeast Regional Championship at Columbia University.

As the two-day event proceeded, teams trickled gradually into Columbia’s Alfred Lerner Hall. MIT’s first dancers were the rookies, who arrived Friday afternoon, danced until 1 a.m., and then rose again at 5 a.m. to be ready for Saturdays 8 a.m. pre-Bronze Latin heat. Among these were Steven Zhang and Jessica A. Lee ’05, Jonathan Lyles and Donna Nguyen; F. Joseph Pompei PhD ’02 and Jin Zhou G; and Muyiwa Ogunnika and Esther Ryvkina ’02.

Competing against 12 to 25 couples in each event, MIT’s rookies took home a dazzling array of ribbons and scholarship awards. At the pre-Bronze level, Zhang and Lee placed fourth in Smooth Waltz and Foxtrot and sixth in Standard Waltz and Quickstep; Steve and Essie took fourth in Rhythm Cha Cha and Swing. Lyles and Nguyen took third in Smooth, second in Rhythm, third in Latin Rhumba and Cha Cha, and fourth in Standard. Pompei and Zhou placed first in Smooth, Rhythm, and Latin, and second in Standard. At the Bronze level, Ogunnika and Ryvkina placed fourth in Smooth Waltz, Tango, and Foxtrot.

At other levels, Christopher Stratton and Katarzyna Herink won second in the Smooth Gold 4-dance (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, and Viennese Waltz). In the Standard category, they competed and placed at two levels, taking second in the Bronze 3-dance and third in the Silver 4-dance. Mark Herschberg and Sally Myers placed sixth in the Smooth Pre-Championship 4-dance event and seventh in the Rhythm Pre-Champ 4-dance (Cha Cha, Rhumba, Swing, and Mambo). Bill Liteplo SM ’00 and Michelle Goldhaber placed sixth in the Rhythm pre-Champ.

But the time and place to be seen that weekend was at the Saturday night Championship events; spectators stampeded upon door-opening and desperate fans could be found at the entrance begging, “Do you have an extra ticket?” By 10 p.m. there was standing-room only in the auditorium; the MC was warning videotapers to get out of the way of quicksteppers who pushed the edges of the dance floor; insatiably enthusiastic cheers emanated from the MIT section every time their favorite couples waltzed past. Igor Pavlovsky and Yanfeng Lin reached semifinals in the Standard Championship 5-dance (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Quickstep, and Viennese Waltz). In a triumphant finish to the evening, Carlos A. Lopez ’05 and Genevieve T. Cuevas G approached the podium at midnight to receive second place in the Latin Pre-Championship 5-dance (Cha Cha, Samba, Rhumba, Paso Doble, and Jive).

By the end of the weekend, toes were sore; voices were hoarse from cheering; and fake-eyelash-bedecked lids drooping from lack of sleep. Dance lessons resumed Monday, to begin practice once again for the next competition.