This is a brief orientation to many common questions about being on the Ballroom Dance Team, and is not meant to be exhaustive! If you have any questions, always feel free to reach out to an experienced team member or to the Executive Board, firstname.lastname@example.org.
I just joined! Now what?
Congratulations on taking your first steps into the exciting and fun filled world of collegiate ballroom dancing! Here are some tried and tested things you can do to get up to speed and on your way to being a fantastic dancer:
(Click to expand)Lessons
Saturday Newcomer Lesson
The staple of what you will learn comes from these Saturday lessons, taught by Steve and Susan McFerran. S+S are EXPERTS in ballroom dancing and anything they say to do supersedes anything you hear from anyone else. We are incredibly lucky to have them coach our team, and for that reason, must try to be as attentive and respectful as possible during lessons.
What if I am too sleepy/sick/overworked to come to lesson?
While attendance is not mandatory, each lesson usually builds on moves and concepts of a previous lesson. If you’re unable to attend, don’t worry! We have review lessons on Mondays and guided practice on Thursdays. Check the calendar for locations/times!
What should I wear to lesson?
Come in something that you can move easily in. Nothing too constricting like tight pencil skirts/tight body dresses. Leggings/shorts are fine, but feel free to dress up! A flowy skirt/dress would be welcome and most dancers generally wear spandex under skirts/dresses. For shoes, most people come in flats. Nothing that doesn’t stick with the bottom of the foot such as flip flops, but sandals are usually fine. You will see some team members in ballroom dance heels, but flats generally are the best for your first time (and regular heels don’t have a dance sole).
Finding a partner
Do I need a dance partner?
Not at first! Our newcomer lessons don’t require a partner, and we encourage dancing with lots of different people at first. This will help you to learn how to lead/follow more effectively, and you get to meet your fellow teammates at the same time!
What does being in a partnership mean?
Typically, you will do most of your practice outside of lesson with your partner. Your partner is also the person you will register to compete with at competitions!
How do I find a partner?
After some time on the team, we’ll start organizing partner searches. These speed-dating like events involve talking to a lot of other newcomers to find someone with similar goals and availability as you.
What are some things I can do to have a good partnership?
Here’s a collection of partnership advice from some team members:
- “Have mutual respect and mutual commitment expectations!” – Jiaxin Z
- “Don’t partner up with someone just because you want to date them. DO NOT GO DOWN THAT ROUTE.” – Jake S
- “Try the same amount of competitiveness and and goals! And try to be the same height.” – Whitney R
Please note that partnerships do not have to be permanent. Even dancing with someone just for a single competition is a start! It’s always a good idea to do a test run before fully committing.
How often do I need to practice?
Although there is no requirement, new members starting are highly encouraged to attend one or both of the two weeknight lessons on Mondays/Thursdays, which does not require a partner. As you learn more, you may want to come to our practice space at Dance Theatre Studio (DTS).
What do I need to know about practicing @ DTS?
DTS is a professional dance studio owned by Jayme and Kenny Crabtree, who graciously lease their studio to us. Part of the agreement we have to use the space is to do chores at the end of the night, such as wiping down mirrors and vacuuming. DTS is free to use for any member on the team, but you must do a chore if you attend that night, no exceptions! The board holds a right to suspend people who consistently skip their chore. If you have any questions on how to do something, just ask! It is critical that we clean thoroughly.
Some basic DTS Rules: No street shoes are allowed in the studios, dance shoes only. No nuts are allowed in the studio! (allergy risk) Please do not touch the thermostat. You must sign a waiver before practicing there. Don’t leave without doing a chore! There is a 40 person limit (fire code).
Do I need a partner to practice at DTS?
The team does not teach lessons at DTS, so you will need to bring a friend if you want to practice with someone! Don’t worry if you don’t have an “official partner”, many people just ask other newcomers if they’d be interested in practicing together for a night.
DTS is really crowded! Where else can I practice?
In days leading up to competitions, DTS can get very crowded and hard to practice in. Many people find their own creative places to practice during this time, such as:
- CCRB Mirror room when they’re not teaching classes
- Racquetball courts
- Academic buildings (outside facing windows at night become mirrors!)
As always, be respectful of others as well as your surroundings when using an area to practice.
Illini Dancesport Invitatational
Purdue Ballroom Classic
University of Wisconsin’s Badger Dancesport Classic
Ohio Star Ball <– THE BIG ONE
MSU’s Green and White Gala
OSU Dancesport Classic
Notre Dame Irish Dancesport Gala
Northwestern Dancesport Classic
Arnold Sports Classic <– Meet the Terminator!
Michcomp <– Our Comp!
Check out the “Competitions” tab for dates for more information on each specific competition.
Newcomers are very strongly encouraged to attend as many competitions as possible! Every callback a couple receives, earns 1 point for our team, regardless of skill level. Newcomers have the flexibility to participate in the most dances, making them extremely valuable in the competitions.
There are four levels of dancing: Newcomer, Bronze, Silver, Gold. Each couple is allowed to dance in two consecutive levels (ie. Newcomer/Bronze. But Bronze/Gold would not be allowed). The levels will alternate dancing so there are short breaks in between dances.
A Typical Competition Schedule
- Carpool leaves Friday, to arrive in time for open dance. This is where music is played so we can test out the competition floor. We all carpool together, so you can sign up as a driver or a rider to get to the comp.
- Most competitions are one day only, with the exception of OSB/Arnold (2 days).
- A lot of competitions, the home team will hosts our team members so we can avoid paying for hotels. The exceptions are OSB/Arnold, where we send so many people we need to book hotels.
- Competition will run all day until around 7pm. Afterwards the team tradition is to go out to dinner together! (Usually Steak-N-Shake. Mmm.)
- Carpools return to Ann Arbor late that night or the next day, depending on the distance to the competition.
The Day of the Competition
- Competition starts usually around 8:00am Saturday morning. Standard/smooth dances are usually first, so come dressed in your standard outfit.
- Leads wear numbers pinned to their back so judges can select their number to be called back.
- Each dance may start with 20-100+ couples so they are broken into heats of around 20 couples each.
- Each heat will dance for ~90 seconds then wait to see if their number receives a callback.
- Numbers will be posted on a screen somewhere and if your number is posted, you made it to the next round for that particular dance.
- The rounds/callbacks will continue until there are <8 couples per dance. They will dance one final dance, then be placed 1st place-8th place and receive ribbons at the end of the competition.
- Cheer for your team members while you are not dancing! Hearing your teammates cheer for you gives you extra energy to perform, and can help judges notice our team more!
What to wear
- Solid colors are preferred because patterns will mix and look confusing when moving around. The brighter the better (usually). You want the judges to notice you! If you have a question about what to wear, or have something but you are not sure if it works, please reach out to an upper level member. They will gladly help you!
- Standard dances: Long skirts or dresses that extend below the knee or all the way to your ankle, standard or latin shoes.
- Latin dances: Short flirty skirts or dresses, latin shoes. If you wear skirts, you can pair them with a leotard or short sleeve shirt.
- Hair: Smooth, shiny, slicked back hair pulled into a tight bun is the usual ‘ballroom’ look. Sock buns work great.
- Makeup: Go CrAzY! You want the judges to see you, so dress it up! Dark eyes, (fake eyelashes), bright lipstick, blush, and bronzer are very common. Try to complement the colors of your outfit. You can really do whatever you want and don’t worry about going out and buying expensive brand-name products. Anything from a drug store will work just fine. If you have any questions, please ask!
- Jewelry: Sparkly earrings and necklace. Length and styles that work well with your outfit.
- Standard dances: White long sleeve button up shirt, black vest (optional), black tie, black dress pants or dance pants, black socks, standard shoes.
- Latin dances: Black long sleeve button up shirt, black dress pants or dance pants, black socks, latin or standard shoes.
- Hair: Neat, slicked back and shiny.
Costs of of being on the team
1. Membership fee: one time payment of $60 gives you a team and club membership for one semester. The money goes to our wonderful coaches, Steve and Susan; and also covers our team practice space rentals at the Union/League/CCRB.
2. Shoes: ~$60-80. Recommend trying them on in person rather than ordering online for your first pair. Vincent/Daisy have shoe vending at DTS once a semester for this purpose, happening soon!.
3. Dance wear: Newcomers are welcome to borrow from upper level team member for their first few competitions; especially the girls. Many upper level members have extra practice skirts which are perfect for wearing when dancing at the newcomer level. Forever 21 provides many different circle skirts/leotards/dresses that also fit this purpose.
After a semester or two you may want to invest in your own ballroom costumes; one for standard and one for latin. The cost for these costumes can range vastly, depending on where you shop: VE dance, online dancewear stores, eBay, Amazon, etc.
A. Registration: There is a one time registration fee for every competition which is usually ~$45. This pays for the entire day of dancing, (so sign up for as many dances as possible!). For the large competitions, OSB in fall, Arnold in winter, the registration fee can be up to $80 because it is a 2 day competition. The team will typically pay for a large amount of your OSB and Arnold registration.
B. Housing: For most comps, team members crash at the apartments/dorms of the local ballroom team. For the large competitions, OSB in fall, Arnold in winter, the team stays in a hotel for two nights. The cost per room is divided amongst the 4-6 people staying in each room.
C. Gas: Costs of gas is divided amongst the team members in that vehicle.
Edit Log: Updated by Meagan Sindone on 5/11/19 Updated by Amos Cao on 10/1/17. Written by Amos Cao and Colleen Martin on 9/25/15 =D