There is a little-known club on campus that has students twirling with excitement – Ballroom Dance Club. The growing ballroom dance program at William Jewell College now includes a class and a dance team and aims to teach a new generation of students the art of dance.
Some of the dancers have funny stories about how they stumbled across the class by accident.
“My advisor gave me the choice of 7 p.m. dance or 7 a.m. pilates. I chose dance,” said Blair Walker, junior vocal performance major and treasurer of Ballroom Dance Club.
Other dancers say they joined because of friends in the program or to impress people with their dancing skills. Either way, almost every dancer is glad to be a part of the dance community.
While ballroom dance may seem old-fashioned, dancers say it’s a great way to stay active and have fun.
“I think it’s really important we have a ballroom dance class here because it’s sort of a dying art. You can have a connection with someone before even knowing them – and it’s fun!” said Walker.
Walker also says the program has benefited him outside the dance floor.
“Ballroom dance has gotten me through a lot,” Walker said.
Other dancers echo Walker’s feelings about the ballroom dance program.
“I believe dance is an important skill for life. I also believe it is important for football because it improves footwork,” said Juan Cantu, first-year physiology major and defensive player for Jewell’s football team.
Kathryn Shelburne, senior French and international relations major and president of the ballroom dance club says ballroom dance has become a big part of her college experience.
“I’ve been on the team for three years now and I was just nominated to be the president. It’s been so much fun working with all these people. I’ve made lifelong friends– we’re really just a big family,” Shelburne said.
The ballroom dance family has grown over the past year and consists of students from all walks of life, including football players, Oxbridge students, music majors and nursing students. In total, there are approximately 20 dancers in each class. The class is also now open to dancers outside the college, including alumni and high school students from Liberty and Liberty North High School.
“I’ve always been interested in dance, and I thought ballroom dance would be a lot of fun,” said Savannah Fritz, a freshman at Liberty High School.
Fritz has enjoyed the class so much she joined the dance team and now brings some of her friends to the class so they can experience the fun.
The dance family has also expanded to include two new dance instructors. In the spring semester of last year, the College hired two new instructors, Jeri Mickle and Lani Seaborn. Mickle and Seaborn have their own dance studio, One Step at a Time, in Excelsior Springs, and Mickle has taught ballroom dance for more than three decades.
The new instructors have updated the way ballroom dance is taught at Jewell. Instead of learning multiple dances at once, they now limit it to one dance a night so students gain a more in-depth understanding and can learn spins and breaks that require more instruction.
“We’re creating a lot of excitement. We do fewer dances now and incorporate modern music,” said Seaborn.
During the class, which meets every Wednesday from 7-9 p.m., students learn a new dance every week, including the Waltz, the Tango, the Cha-cha and the foxtrot. They also work on dance etiquette and review the dance they learned during the previous week.
“The class focuses on learning core dances while the team focuses on routines they will perform,” said Mickle.
The dance team meets weekly in addition to the class time. They prepare a routine and get ready for performances in the community. Their first performance will be at the Jewell Ball. In the future, look for them to perform at halftime shows at College sporting events.
The Jewell Ball is the best time for anyone interested in the ballroom dance program to learn more about the dance program. The Ball is at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct 29 and features music, dancing, cookies and refreshments. There is a masquerade theme and attendees are encouraged to wear masks, but it is not required. The event is free for Jewell students and cost $5 for guests and will be in the Mabee Center.
“I think more people should join ballroom dance – it’s something you won’t regret. Come to the ball and see if you like it,” Cantu said.
Photo taken by Cassie Hayes.