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Ballroom dance club combines international dancing with community

Leia Reilly dances in a multipurpose room at Fetzer Hall on Monday, Mar. 6, 2023. Reilly is the president of the UNC Ballroom Dance Club, which teaches beginners a variety of ballroom dancing styles.

Although UNC sophomore Jayla Twitty had never danced before, she said she was hooked after her first lesson with the UNC Ballroom Dance Team.

“I showed up to the club and I was like, 'well, I can't leave, I have to stay, I love it so much,’” Twitty said. She now serves as the newcomer liaison for the team. 

First-year Carolyn Guan, another ballroom dance newcomer, joined the UNC Ballroom Dance Team last semester to try out a new style of dance. In her first semester of competing, Guan won ‘Best Overall Newcomer’ and now serves as the vice president of the team. 

The Ballroom Dance Team is a club that makes ballroom dance financially accessible to students who want to try the style. The team focuses on International Latin and International Standard styles of ballroom dancing and incorporates American styles in its social dancing lessons.

“Lots of people are afraid of ballroom because I quote, ‘I cannot dance.' However, we can fix that, that's what we do," PresidentLeia Reilly said. "If you’re terrified of Ballroom, just take a group of friends and give the Tuesday lessons a try."

The team coordinates both a social team — which is free to participate in all year —and a competitive team, which is $45 per semester. However, there are resources to help students who wish to join the competitive team but cannot pay the fee. 

Both teams are open to all students at any skill level, with no experience required to join.

“Don’t worry if you don't have a partner or you don't have shoes,” Twitty said. “Just as long as you show up with an open mindset and are willing to just try it, I think you're going to enjoy it.”

The team hosts three meetings a week on-campus in Fetzer Hall. Tuesday lessons, for both competitive and social, are for beginners and are always free. The club’s Wednesday lessons are slightly more advanced and are free until competitive fee payments are due, but Thursday classes are advanced and only open to competitive members. 

Along with the on-campus meetings, off-campus lessons taught by dancer Inga Sirkaite are also available on Mondays through the dance team for $15 a semester.

During the pandemic, student involvement decreased, Reilly said. However, she said the team has since rebuilt.

“I spent so many bloody hours just making sure that we had people again that we could survive as a club and as a team," Reilly said. "So watching it move and grow has been a large personal accomplishment."

There are competitions all throughout the year, and most are held by universities. Some members, like Reilly, qualify to compete in competitions like Nationals. 

“I've really valued the people that ballroom dancing has brought into my life, I really value the community that it has created, and just so many experiences and so much fun that I've been able to have with it," Reilly said. "I'm going to Nationals, which is so exciting."

UNC will be hosting its own competition, the “Carolina Ballroom Brawl,” later this month on March 25. 

Along with competitions, universities will also hold dance socials which offer team members the chance to meet fellow dancers from different university teams. 

“Ballroom definitely brought me into a new community," Guan said. "Since we usually go to socials at different universities, I'm constantly meeting new people. And everyone in the community is really nice, really understanding and I think it definitely made up a lot of my college experience.”

Twitty said the club provides an opportunity to learn new dance styles and also interact with new people in the ballroom community.


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