Bwog Guest Writer Samara Mohan attended the Ballroom Dancing Club Showcase and learned how to cha cha, tango, and salsa.

As someone who grew up dancing jazz, ballet, and contemporary, I had never made an effort to try dancing with a partner, perhaps because I felt like if you mess up, you mess things up for your partner too. This changed when I was encouraged by Bwog to attend Columbia’s ballroom dancing showcase.

On Monday, September 12, the Columbia University Ballroom Dancing Club had a fall showcase followed by a dance class from 10 to12 pm in Lerner 555. While chatting around, I met people on all parts of their academic journeys—PhD students, master’s students, undergraduates, and even a set of parents who came to class with their newborn baby. Everyone was so excited to watch and participate in the showcase. The night started with more than 50 people gathering into a room and sitting around to watch a series of three ballroom dancing performances. 

The three pieces, all performed by students or people part of the Columbia Ballroom Dance Club, were breathtaking. The detailed choreography that entailed several complicated and simplistic jumps, twists, and turns, the outfits with people wearing ballroom dancing dresses which are tight on the waist and flowy below, suits, and heels, and the unique energy each dancer had made the performance look straight out of Broadway! 

After watching these wonderful performances we were all invited to come and learn how to ballroom dance. The entire group was separated into “leaders” (the ones who lead the dance) and “followers” (the ones who follow the leaders while dancing). The first style we started with was Cha Cha, named after Cha Cha Cha music which has three beats, and thus three steps are danced on the respective counts. It is a partner dance of Cuban origin. Then we moved on to Tango, a dramatic style of social dance, which has origins in Argentina and Uruguay, and Salsa, a Latin dance, which has six steps danced over eight beats. 

We learned all the moves individually first, then tried them with music, and then finally found a partner to dance it with twice, before switching to another partner for the same choreography. The music was extremely catchy, including some famous songs like Havana by Camila Cabello and Perfect by Ed Sheeran. 

For me, dancing Cha Cha was so much fun even though I struggled with coordinating with my partner as it was my first time dancing in a pair. Tango was so catchy, but I struggled with my sense of direction as we moved across the room turning in pairs. I enjoyed the Salsa bit of the class and that was one style I actually got a hang of! While the class was challenging for me at first, I did eventually understand how to ballroom dance, and most importantly I had a great time. The class is designed in a way that beginners and experienced dancers are all able to keep up while being challenged at the same time.

I also appreciate that we were encouraged to shift between learning the follower and the leader parts of the dance-regardless of our gender, not only because that challenges gender stereotypes but also because, as our teacher said, it would help make us well-rounded dancers. 

We also got to switch around partners which was wonderful because we got to work with people who had different styles of movement, different levels of experience, and different strengths and weaknesses. The club had people with all levels of experience—people who had never danced before apart from in their showers and people with years and years of experience in ballroom dancing or other forms of dance. We ended the night with a freestyle dance party in pairs and I think that was the highlight—seeing so many people from different backgrounds dance together and enjoy themselves.

Vibrant Ballroom Illustration via Bwog Illustration