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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Pretty fly ‘for a white guy’

    Physiology sophomore Avianne Mills, left, and chemistry senior Daniel Einfrank, swirl around the dance floor of the Ina E. Gittings Gym during a ballroom dancing weekly practice Monday night.
    Physiology sophomore Avianne Mills, left, and chemistry senior Daniel Einfrank, swirl around the dance floor of the Ina E. Gittings Gym during a ballroom dancing weekly practice Monday night.

    If you think most guys can’t dance, Monday’s meeting of the Arizona Ballroom Club showed that more and more are certainly trying.

    When the beginners lesson started, every woman who wanted a partner had one – and then some.

    “”We’re a little short on girls tonight, surprisingly,”” said the club’s Vice President Jake Schwarz.

    Schwarz said club practices are usually a lopsided affair, with women outnumbering men by as many as two-to-one.

    But the growing popularity of shows like “”Dancing With the Stars”” has gotten more guys to step into the ballroom, he said.

    Men see former pro athletes like NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith dancing, actually being good at it and it doesn’t seem so bad.

    “”I would say the stigma when I first started was ‘white guy ballroom dancing – probably not straight,’ “” Schwarz said. “”Nowadays, it’s ‘OK, you ballroom dance. That’s cool.’ It’s got a different attitude.””

    The club offers lessons for beginners with professional instructor Blake Kish every Monday at 9 p.m. in the Ina E. Gittings building’s gym.

    Extra practice and help is also available Wednesdays and Thursdays between 8 and 10 p.m.

    Beginners hit the ground running – or dancing, as the case may be. Kish runs over basic steps to the evening’s dance. Dancers practice by themselves first and then with a partner while Kish calls out the steps.

    By the end of practice, dancers are moving to actual music.

    “”To be honest I was pretty scared when I got in there,”” said electrical engineering freshman Anthony Kuhn, who was attending his first lesson Monday.

    Kuhn said he was encouraged to attend by his friend, club member Michelle Kostuk.

    “”I make everybody come dancing,”” she said.

    Kuhn said he planned to come back.

    It isn’t always pretty for newcomers, but the end result is actual dancing. During a cha-cha to the song “”Tequila,”” the rookie dancers were so busy concentrating on the steps that nobody bothered to shout the chorus.

    “”They’re making it,”” Schwarz said. “”Especially for as many newcomers who have never set foot on a dance floor, I’m actually impressed.””

    Another first-timer, pre-business freshman Natasia Casper, said she had a great experience.

    “”I actually really enjoyed it,”” she said. “”I’ve never danced before in my life.””

    Kish, who commutes from Phoenix every Monday evening to teach the club, said students determine their own levels of success when learning to dance.

    “”It depends on if they make every class, if they practice,”” he said. “”It could take six months. It could take five years. It depends on the person.””

    And there is no rush.

    “”It’s very kind of lax,”” Kostuk said. “”You can take it to the level you want to. I just like that it’s very inclusive.””

    Once you get some steps under your belt and some confidence, the club offers the chance to dance in competitions across the country, from Mesa, Ariz. to San Diego to Columbus, Ohio.

    One doesn’t even have to be that good to compete. Ballroom competitions offer a variety of skill divisions, from the very basic to the most advanced.

    The skill level determines which steps one is allowed to perform. Dancers are judged on proficiency in their skill level.

    Ballroom dance is actually listed as a club sport on the Student Campus Recreation Web site, which may raise some eyebrows.

    “”The club itself is a social club. It’s founded on social dancing, having fun,”” Schwarz said. “”But competing and doing ballroom in itself is a sport.””

    While ballroom dancing is not yet a part of the Olympic Games, it is on the list of sports recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

    “”I would say for those who don’t think it is (a sport), come out and try it and we’ll see how good a shape you’re in, because you might be able to run on a basketball court but you probably can’t keep up here,”” Schwarz said.

    The muscle memory and control needed for good ballroom dancing is what makes it so demanding, he said.

    “”You have to be precise in every step, you have to step certain ways, your body has to be angled in certain positions,”” he said. “”It’s absolute body control. If you were to consider gymnastics a sport, especially when they’re doing open choreography and dance, there’s no difference.””

    Sport or not, ballroom is ultimately about having fun and learning how to dance, Schwarz said.

    “”I will say, I thought of myself as the typical white boy who couldn’t dance when I started,”” he said. “”A lot of the guys who first start, they struggle at first but they get better and that’s the greatest thing about this club is that we encourage people to compete.

    “”Most of these guys, especially when they’re done and out of his club, they’re more willing to go into a salsa club like El Parador and ask a girl to dance. They may not be the greatest salsa dancer, but they know enough to be able to lead and dance and have fun – which is what dancing is all about.””

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