Baylor Ballroom Dance Society hosts first dances of the semester

Photo Credit: Penelope Shirey | Lariat Photographer

Though Cinderella only went to the ball once (and had to leave early at that), students will have their chance to dance every Friday this semester with the new Baylor Ballroom Dance Society.

Tomorrow at 6:45, the group will host its second ball of the semester in the Bill Daniel Student Center’s SUB den. Any student who wishes to attend will get to learn the foxtrot, a ballroom style characterized by its smooth and rhythmic elegance.

The Ballroom Dance Society welcomed about 50 beginning and intermediate dancers to its first meeting last week with introductory lessons in the waltz. Partners dressed in their finest ballroom attire swirled beneath the vaulted ceilings of the Barfield Drawing Room, taking their first steps under the direction of faculty advisors Craig Waldrop, who teaches social dance, and Jane Abbott-Kirk, who teaches piano in the School of Music.

“We learned everything from how to follow the beat of the music, to the different steps, to how to move around the room without running into people. Apparently it can be a little like Nascar,” Katy freshman Jamie Wheeler said.

The Ballroom Dance Society will play everything from Journey to classical music as dancers learn the tango, swing dance and, of course, the waltz. The organization’s officers hope to expose their guests to many different styles of music and dance with the semester’s events, which will be held in multiple different locations to be announced on the group’s Facebook page.

Austin senior Joshua Turpin, the organization’s president, formed the society to promote the culture of ballroom dance at Baylor, and to educate students in what he sees as an essential art form.

“Very few people know how to ballroom dance, and it’s disgraceful, really. We feel that ballroom dance is a wonderful gift and also a social grace,” Turpin said. “There’s a lot to be said for having balls and dances. It’s a good social event, it’s good for the health and, personally, I feel it releases a lot of stress.”

Turpin started the society after taking a social dance class last year and realizing there was nowhere he could hone his skills outside the classroom. Encouraged by Waldrop and Abbott-Kirk, he found other students who were interested in ballroom dance and chartered the Ballroom Dance Society. Despite receiving the charter, however, it was only after joining an entirely separate group of ballroom dancers that the Ballroom Dance Society got off the ground.

Last semester, 50 honors students saw a similar need for ballroom dance at Baylor. After the Honors College’s Fall Ball was announced, Fergus Falls, Minn. freshman David Grotberg expected that they would dance the stately waltz or maybe the lively Texas two-step. When he learned that the so-called ball wouldn’t feature any ballroom dancing, he and about 50 other honors students signed a petition to have ballroom dancing at the Fall Ball. Their petition was successful, and they were given the floor to waltz, foxtrot and do the quickstep—but only for 5 minutes.

“We looked into it and saw [ballroom dance] was something that was really missing at Baylor,” Grotberg said. “We’ve got swing dance and we’ve got Latin dance, so ballroom dance seemed like the next step.”

Grotberg and the other petitioners, including Wheeler, held a Christmas ball last semester in the Honors Residential College, but it wasn’t until meeting Turpin at the beginning of this semester that they were able to join forces with the Ballroom Dance Society and host events every week.

Turpin hopes that guests will visit any one of the organization’s balls to gain a deeper appreciation of ballroom dance. Guests can come and go throughout the night, choosing to take a lesson at the beginning or just come to dance at the end.

“People may have an idea of ballroom dancing as being old-fashioned or something only people in corsets do, and it’s just really not the case. We had a really great variety of types of music, and we’re going to do a variety of types of dancing, but what it all has in common is that it values order and beauty,” Wheeler said. “It’s both a social event and an art form. It’s like theater, it’s like music, it’s like poetry. But it’s also a social event, and I find that really interesting.”