Why We Perform: A Sprinkle of Ballroom and a Dash of Latin

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Nothing can explain it. The pressing of the lips, the tight grasping of the chin, nor the focusing of the mind; I can’t possibly think of WHY I joined the society. But I know beyond doubt, I don’t regret it!

The year is 2019. Aware of autumn’s arrival to the party, summer cowers at the thought of confrontation and makes a swift exit. It is time to begin the new year. You heard correctly. Many may moan and whine at such a time – a beloved tradition amongst the youth. After all, the new school year is about to start. Yet for some privileged many, the scouring of welcome parties, the forming of group chats, and the exploring of different clubs & societies on offer begins…

It was at this time that I convinced myself to join the Ballroom and Latin Dance Society. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it looked fun, maybe I liked dancing, or maybe it was FATE!

No, I have not performed as one might expect in Strictly Come Dancing; but I have performed in an infinitely much greater capacity; university dancing competitions! In the ironically self-titled ‘friendly’ competitions, students embody the true spirit of the spartan warrior and with immense hostility go to battle yelling, “This is SPARTAAA!”… well, not quite. But I’d like to think the reality shares a tenuous link to Hollywood’s portrayal of Spartan warfare.

Imagine… Couples piercingly stare at the commentator and begin to ready themselves at the side-lines. “Novice Waltz Semi-Finals!” declares the commentator. “24, 53, 76, 79, 103, …” he continues. Some look disappointed. Others can’t contain their smile. Eventually, the lucky couples being to walk on the dance floor with great pride. On approach, almost all have one arm flamboyantly stretched out to the side and the other occupied with the union of two hands. Many seasoned dancers exude an excess of confidence upon their entry to the dance floor and seamlessly ration the space appropriately. A few disjointed cheers mark the beginning of the battle – cough! I mean to say, ‘round’ – followed by the type of music we all know too well. The dancing begins. “WHO ARE WE?” Shouts one team. Seconds later, “SOUTHAMPTON!” And so on. Contradictory to their stiff ballroom hold, the dancers display a degree of fluidity in their motion. There is a distinct rise and fall every few steps as if to mimic the gentle waves of a calm ocean. It’s not perfect but to the untrained eye, it is impressive. Suddenly, the round ends with an abrupt stop to the music. It is instantaneously followed by a round of applause. Leaders bow. Followers spin into a curtsy. The round is done. The battle has ended. But the war is not yet over!

Whether it is the gentle Slow Waltz or the dramatic Spanish-influenced Paso Doble, each of the ten Ballroom and Latin dance styles evoke a different feeling both within the performers and also the audience. The best performances deliver on this; they create the intended atmosphere. For example, when you watch or dance the Samba, you want to feel like you are ‘throwing your hair down’ at a party, or better yet envisage yourself at a Brazilian Carnival.

I still don’t know why I joined the society. But I do know that a sprinkle of Ballroom and a dash of Latin has enhanced my university experience.

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