Tomorrow Rockwell Cage will shine with crystal-studded costumes, sleek hairdos, and elegant tail suits as dancers from different areas gather for MIT Open, the annual ballroom dance competition organized by MIT Ballroom Dance Team. The Tech took this opportunity to visit the team members during their weekend practice and talk about preparations, the team’s progress, and dancing in general.
MIT Ballroom Dance Team grew out of a ballroom dance club that was formed by students in the 1970s. By the late 1970s, some members expressed interest in entering the world of competitive ballroom dancing, and very soon MIT Ballroom Dance Team was formed. MITBDT collaborates with Wellesley College, is open to all students, and does not require prior experience.
“I didn’t dance before coming to MIT all,” said Brittany N. Bautista ’17 “Actually, in high school, my freshman English teacher told me that MIT had a really good ballroom dance team. So, I saw their booth at the activities midway, and decided to give it a shot.”
Amy Yuan, a sophomore from Wellesley, shared a similar experience. “So, originally, I was encouraged by my older sister to start ballroom dancing. So I contacted someone when I first got into Wellesley who I knew was on a ballroom dance team, and I asked her when they would be taking newcomers to MIT for ballroom. I came and really enjoyed it, and I got to meet a lot of cool people.”
Unlike many other sports teams at MIT, MITBDT is open to both undergraduate and graduate students, which gives a different but refreshing flavor to the team spirit. “My experience so far is that the team is pretty diverse,” said Daniel R. Chen ’16. “There is a lot of grad students, and a lot of undergrad students… I feel like there is not too much of a team stereotype just because we come such different backgrounds.” Despite the various ages and backgrounds, the team members have their own ways of cultivating the team spirit. “After competitions, we’ll often get team dinners,” added Yuan. “I think that’s a good bonding experience because oftentimes we don’t see each other outside of practice. It gives a chance to rookies to meet the vets, and to vets to bond with the rookies.”
The practice schedule varies with different levels of experience, so there isn’t a rigid weekly timeline that members have to follow. “I practice almost every day,” said Alexander Martynov G “In general, when both you and your partner are available, you just start — say from six to nine, or from seven to ten. There are group classes, of course, when the coach comes on some set days. Once a week, there is team practice and rounds when they just put the music and you just go through all the dances. After that, you have time to practice on your own.”
While personal schedules vary with experience, members who have been part of the team for only a short period of time also practice on a daily basis. “At least for me and a lot of other rookies, it’s almost every day that we get some kind of dancing,” said Bautista.
Competitive ballroom dancing is known for its appealing clothing and footwear, so it’s only natural to think that being a member is an expensive luxury. However, the team offers various affordable ways of finding these items. “The team has a collection of costumes,” said Brian R. Solomon G. “And a lot of that is from people who have donated… so we get a lot of costumes through that.”
All the members have been working collectively to help the team prepare for the upcoming weekend competition. “Everyone on the team volunteers and helps out,” said Solomon, “whether you’re working a desk shift, handling registration, or restocking water.”
This year, special guests of the competitions will be Michael Malitowski and Joanna Leunis, former World Latin Dance Champions. MITBDT members will have the opportunity to attend their lessons during the weekend. “They have a workshop on Sunday,” said Solomon “So it’s kind of a group class, and that will be pretty good.”
With International Dance Day coming up on April 29, the team members shared their thoughts on why dancing is important to them. “Because MIT can be so busy, it’s always nice to take time away from that and get back to some good, old-fashion fun,” said Chen. Yuan said, “It’s a way for me to de-stress and get away from academics for a while.”
MIT Open Ballroom Dance Competition is taking place this weekend, Apr. 26 – Apr. 27. You can see the full schedule of the competition on http://ballroom.mit.edu/comp/schedule.shtml