Stef here. This is getting to be really fun! I might make January Guest Blog month in the future. I’m loving connecting with all sorts of new people. Thanks to Alaina from And Then Came Dance for “introducing” me to my next guest writer.
Anastasia has a unique perspective as a collegiate dancer. I never danced while in college or with another amateur partner so I was curious to learn more. Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy this post from my young friend. Thanks, again, Anastasia and welcome to Ballroom Village.
Hello! I’m Anastasia from over at Picture Line Photography, and Stef has asked me to do a blog piece about my Collegiate Ballroom experience.
Now I have to be honest here, my “collegiate experience” didn’t start in college. Rewind 11 years (gosh has it really been that long!). I was in 7th grade, and my dad was still currently working for the University of Maryland doing technology transfer. Somehow, my dad found out about this club called Ballroom At Maryland. So naturally, he comes home, and tells us that will start taking free beginner group ballroom lessons by the students at the university. Mom of course is thrilled at the idea. And what’s my reaction? I really, really, REALLY did not want to go, because no “cool kid” did ballroom dancing.
Well my butt got dragged anyway. But let me tell you, I was hooked after that first lesson. It totally wasn’t what I expected. I loved it. The club primarily focused on the International styles of Latin and Standard. I loved both, but at the time, Latin made much more sense to me and gave me more joy than Standard.
Fast forward 6 or 7 years. I have been accepted into the the University of Maryland, entering the fall class of 2014 as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed freshman. I was determined to see if the club was still around, and it was. I went to my first class as a true college gal. It was the Newcomer Social Latin class, taught by one current student and one alumna. The ratios between guys and gals were a bit off, so a few of the veteran members came over to help, as well did the male teacher. Both the male teacher and the other veteran member commented that I seemed to catch on pretty quickly and told me I should compete.
At the time I had no idea there was a competitive side to ballroom beyond Dancing with the Stars. I have a bit of a competitive streak in me so of course I said yes. About three weeks later I had a partner, I had rearranged my guitar lessons (which I ended up dropping after that semester) so that I could make all the newcomer classes, and I began practicing with said partner outside of the class times. We had our first competition at DCDI in November. We did much better in Latin then we did in Standard. We didn’t even make it all the way around the floor in our first Waltz. The woes of being short!
I was approached by one of my teachers’ coaches, a champ level standard dancer, after the first day of competition. He wanted to give my partner and I private lessons. My partner instantly refused. My partner and this coach mixed like oil and water. But I took lessons without my partner. I wanted to get better, and I knew private lessons would take my further than any group class. That partnership didn’t last for standard as we split up at the end of our first semester dancing together. We continued to dance latin together for another semester though.
I bounced around partners for the spring semester, all the while still taking lessons from this coach. I wasn’t the best student at the time. I had yet to figure out how to make private lessons effective. I often forgot moves, and he often got frustrated with me. I forget them because I had yet to figure out how to practice by myself, and I didn’t even have a practice partner at the time to work with. The coach, for separate reasons, slowly became more and more flakey, as he had to travel from NY to MD to teach us. I soon dropped him as a coach because I no longer to could stand his flakey tendencies.
During this time, I began dating one of the other dancers in the club. He was a about a half-year ahead of me in terms of dancing. He was also bouncing around partners as he had dislocated a shoulder ice skating. We didn’t start dancing together until the summer though. I was still at a much lower level back then, just starting out in Bronze, while he was just starting out in silver.
Towards the beginning of summer break, we started talking about dancing together. We both didn’t have partners for standard. We both had similar goals. And we were all ready dating so we knew we could rely on each other. There were a few drawbacks that included; we aren’t a great hight match, and we were already dating! 😛 However, we spent the entire summer working me up from mid-bronze to the silver level. I was trying to remember all the fancy choreography and trying to learn technique all in a few short months. Needless to say, even by the next November, I was still very uncomfortable with silver moves and we did not do well at all.
We continued to dance together, getting private lessons, and practicing non-stop. We competed a few more times. Most of the time we didn’t get called back but, we did manage to final in silver once. We also made one mark on a pre-champ floor our first time out with gold routines. We were ecstatic about that. However, my partner’s life took over. He was in his final year of grad school, and he needed to get his thesis out and finished.
Competing has basically come to a halt since the fall of 2012, though we have not stopped practicing or taking lessons. We currently have a fabulous female coach who is able to bridge the gap of “what the man wants to feel” and “how to actually achieve it” among many other things. For the first time I feel confident in my lady frame and (most of the time) I feel much more confident and balanced. My partner and I are working on our Open Level Standard routines and look to compete in the Novice, Pre-Champ level when we return to competing.
Not all of my collegiate dance experience is centered on dance. I started out on the officers board after my first semester as the Event Manager, the underling of the Vice President of Special Events. I mostly coordinated workshops with local pros, and high level amateurs, though I did help out with planning our club’s socials. I then moved up the next year to the position of Team Captain. This by far was the best experience on the board. I worked with one other member of our team to get our team, anywhere from 50-80 couples competing at one time, registered and to and from competitions safely and mostly within the bounds of our governing body, Campus Recreation Services. I truly enjoyed bonding with the team and working with and for them in this position. Last year, I took up the position as President, the hardest job yet. It was far from a walk in the park, and no where near as enjoyable as being Team Captain was. I went through many ups and downs, but I have come away learning a lot. I am truly glad I have had all of these experiences. Now I am back to being a lowly member of the club, and thoroughly enjoying just dancing again.
I have also learned to bring my two passions, dancing and photography together. Now, I am no dummy. I know I will never become a professional ballroom dancer. I did not start young enough, nor is it in the cards for me. And I am ok with that. This is where photography comes in. I hope one day that I can make it as a full time photographer, with a focus in Dancesport Photography. I truly love being able to capture the emotion and grace of the dancers, professionals or amateurs. I have already started building up a portfolio and I have included some examples of my work below.
I would like to thank Stef again for letting me be a guest speaker on her blog! And I hope you all enjoyed hearing about the my collegiate experience. Please feel free to leave any other questions you may have in the comments below.