INSIDE Chico State
0 December 9, 1999
Volume 30 Number 10
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
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Ballroom Dance Revival

Couples dance the rumba at Ballroom Dance night, an event held twice yearly and sponsored by Recreation Sports and  Physical Education. (photo KM)
Couples dance the rumba at Ballroom Dance night, an event held twice yearly and sponsored by Recreation Sports and Physical Education. (photo KM)

 

The women wore short red velvet and long white chiffon; the men wore suits; there were dance cards and refreshments and raffle tickets. The beginning bars of a waltz were accompanied by, "May I have this dance?"

It was like walking into the past in the Shurmer Gym on Wednesday evening, December 1. There was an air of anticipation and festivity as couples and singles, old and young, filled the room and the dance floor. A rumba, then a fox trot, then a swing dance. Then it was lady's choice for a waltz.

Some couples were executing elaborate turns and twirls and bends. Some were moving more humbly around the edge. Almost everyone, apparently, could tell the difference between the tango, the fox trot, and the swing. Over 550 students, faculty, and community members had come to dance and practice the social graces that go with it. President Esteban and his wife Gloria were among them and danced for two hours.

Patricia Smiley, Physical Education, teaches ballroom dance and is the force behind the event. Fifty students help plan the event, take tickets, bring refreshments, set up the room and perform a myriad of other tasks so students can enjoy themselves at the event.

It is the event of the semester for students involved in ballroom dance as a class or as an extra-curricular activity. Smiley says that ballroom dance classes are among the most popular on campus. This mirrors the revival in popularity of ballroom dance in the culture. CNN reported a year ago that there are 30 million people involved in ballroom dancing. The average age a few years ago was sixty. Now it is thirty-five and dropping.

One young couple, Emma and Beau, suggested that the swing has sparked the revival. People are drawn to classes to learn it and then encounter the other classic ballroom dances. They find them so much fun that they learn and practice them all. Emma started taking private lessons in high school. Beau took classes and entered competitions. Now they both dance regularly and introduce others to dance.

It was clear that this event was somehow different than many events available on campus or in the community. Dance transcends age. It is something that the young, the old, and the middle-aged can to together. It is highly participatory, and Ballroom Dance Night is organized in such a way that everyone is easily involved. Young people can go, meet people, and have a wonderful time without drinking.

Smiley wants more people to know about this positive, multi-age and multi-cultural campus event. It provides joyable activity that teaches an art and a range of social skills that last a lifetime. -- SL

 

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