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Since the first week of September, the MIT Ballroom Dance Team’s newest recruits have been working hard to master the steps, technique, and artistry of eight competitive ballroom dances: the American foxtrot, waltz, tango, swing, rumba, and cha cha and the international waltz and rumba. Thirty-six of MITBDT’s rookie dancers made their debut at the 16th Annual Harvard Beginners’ Competition on October 25th. Each of the newcomer events — international rumba, international waltz, American foxtrot, and swing — had at least 73 registered couples, but despite the competition, thirteen of MIT’s rookies made at least one final in these events, placing in the top six. Especially successful were Eddie Kay G and Chun Li ’08, who placed first in newcomer swing, waltz, and foxtrot and second in newcomer rumba.

MIT’s more experienced dancers also held their own, with 20 out of 29 bronze- and silver-level competitors making at least one final at the Competition.

In addition to the regular events, Harvard Beginners’ held a rookie-vet team match again this year. And for the third year in a row, one of MIT’s rookie-vet teams took first place, besting teams from other local colleges.

For this event, newcomers were paired with experienced competitors to dance salsa, swing, foxtrot, hustle, or polka on a team of five couples. Salsa, hustle, and polka are not regular competitive ballroom dances. Nonetheless, couples at the Harvard Beginners’ team match have been taking these ‘fun’ dances more and more seriously each year, preparing elaborate routines including anything from dips and splits to clapping games and slapstick humor.

Rookies on dance teams in Massachusetts and Connecticut added four more dances to their repertoire for the Brown Competition, held November 9th. MIT rookies dominated the dance floor at Brown: in five of the eight newcomer events, the majority of couples that made the final were from the MIT team, and in newcomer American waltz, all finalists were from MIT.

The Brown Competition also held its annual team event, the Christina Cryan Newcomer Team Match. And for the fifth year in a row, MIT rookies won this match with an excellent display of technique in American-style dances. Brown University’s team took second place and the University of Massachusetts Amherst took third this year.

In collegiate ballroom competitions there are typically four dance levels — newcomer, bronze, silver, and gold — at which competitors are restricted to dancing within a syllabus, plus at least one level for advanced competitors to dance outside the syllabus. Usually three or four rounds of dancing are necessary to narrow a typical crowd of forty to sixty competitors down to six or seven finalists.

Overall, 59 out of MIT’s 97 dancers (61 percent) made at least one final at the Brown Competition. In all smooth, standard, and Latin-style events at the silver and gold levels, at least three couples in the final were from MIT. Top finishers for MIT were YaaLirng Tu G and Jeff McCollum, who won gold smooth; Ada Lipkin ’08 and Rob Lakow, who won gold Latin events; and Tuan Phan ’02 and Angie Chen, who won open standard.

MITBDT holds monthly social dances, which are open to the public. The next social will be held at Walker Memorial on Saturday, November 29 from 8 p.m. to midnight, with a free beginner tango lesson at 7:30 p.m. See http://ballroom.mit.edu/ for more information.