Western Carolina University “waltzeds” to the leader board at the Cackalacky Ballroom Challenge. On Feb. 8, the WCU Ballroom Dance Club traveled to Raleigh for their first dance competition of the decade, and they had one of their most successful competitions to date.
For some background information, Western’s ballroom team competes in what is informally known as the collegiate circuit. In this league of sorts, they compete against other dance clubs from schools across the country. Some of the schools that attend actually are an official school funded team, meaning that the dancers are on scholarship and the coaches are paid professional ballroom dancers. That being said, Western’s team consists entirely of students, the coaches are upperclassmen who also compete, and the team fundraises for most of the costs associated with competing.
Historically, Western’s team has not been a top finisher, and the team recognizes the disadvantages that they face.
“I love my club and the people in it. I think what we do is amazing and that our dancers are amazing. But I can only feel a little guilty knowing that I can’t teach past my own level of dancing which is American bronze. I know that other clubs may have resources we don’t or coaches with better skills and training to teach, and unfortunately, I do not have those resources or training. I am proud of our dancers, but wish we could give them more,” said Co-President Max Byron.
Since ballroom dancing is not a team sport, the best measure of how well a team does at a competition is the success of the team members attending. The ultimate goal of any dancer is to get a ribbon. The top six couples competing in a specific category will ribbon. Usually there are around 30 to 40 couples in a category. The couples will be split into groups and dance simultaneously. Then the judges will pick a specified number of dancers to return to the dance floor for a second round. They repeat this process they make it to the finals. Different categories are separated by the level and the type of dance.
The last competition that the team went to only one member got a ribbon. But, at Cackalacky 13 different club members got a ribbon. This is a solid improvement for the club that could be a sign that they are on their way toward becoming a competitive force in the collegiate circuit despite their limitations. On top of that WCU had the largest team at Cackalacky, which was another positive sign for the club.
Club member Ian Anchors, who ribboned for the first time at Cackalacky, said, “After my first competiton I knew I needed to make some improvements, and after my second comp it felt great to earn a ribbon after all that hard work.”
Anchors practiced at least three extra days a week outside of required practices prior to this competition in order to prepare himself, and he was one of many who put in extra work in hopes of performing better at this competition.
The clubs top ribbon getter was Tayler Magnus who competed at both Newcomer 1 and Newcomer 2, these refer to the different experience levels that dancers can compete at. Magnus ribboned with Clarissa Mitchell in Newcomer 1: they placed 6th in Waltz, 5th in Tango, and 3rd in Foxtrot. Magnus also ribboned at Newcomer 2 with Duck Dennard placing 5th in Foxtrot.
Other members who ribboned include Dara Sanderson and Nate Hadley who placed 6th in both Viennese Waltz and Rumba at Newcomer 3. Hadley also placed 3rd with Amanda Ghianda at Newcomer 2. Dontres Coleman and Lela Shinault placed 6th Rumba at Newcomer 1, Ian Anchors and Jess Martin placed 4th in Tango at Newcomer 1, and Zion Boggess and Jordan Fox placed 6th in Waltz at Newcomer 2.
There also was a social competition where competitors danced for ribbons in a less than traditional manner. The category Same Sex Rumba is self-explanatory and was judged with less focus on technique and more on the “performance.” In this event Western’s Kasson Mitchell and Hadley placed 5th, Fox and Allision Cullen placed 4th, and Ghianda and Sanderson placed 3rd.
The club meets every Tuesday and Thursday at 8:30 p.m. in studio two of the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center.
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