On the third floor of LaPierre Ballroom Dance Studio people gathered to share one common interest, ballroom dancing.
The building, which is located on 111 High St., was filled with commotion as ballroom club members were practicing dances like tango and cha-cha. Leading the class was 21-year-old junior dance major, Krystal Bradley.
“When you’re practicing dance with somebody, you both are getting really sweaty and gross,” Bradley said. “So it kind of becomes personal in that way too. You really get to know that person for who he is.”
Bradley is the president of the club and she also is a dance instructor for the studio. When she was 16, Bradley met the club adviser, Gene LaPierre, and he told her about it. When Bradley entered Rowan, she attended one meeting and there was only about three people, she said.
When LaPierre asked her to help him promote the club so more people would join, she agreed.
“We have so many more guys now,” said Lola Vera, a 23-year-old junior political science major. “Which is great because before it was all females and like five guys and it’s really hard when you try to partner with someone.”
Vera started going to the club meetings when she transferred to Rowan last year. She first heard about the it through her ballroom dance class. Her professor for the class is also the club adviser, LaPierre. She decided to join because it was a way for her to meet new people and to get involved.
“It’s really nice the fact that these people, random strangers, they literally become like a second family to you because you spend so much time with them,” Vera said.
Through the club she has competed in various competitions and even received a scholarship to a dance intensive camp. She couldn’t attend it in the summer but it was still an honor to make it that far, she said.
“A lot of people get really scared when they think about ballroom dancing because they see Dancing with the Stars,” said Shannon Storms, a 19-year-old sophomore biomedical engineering student and vice president of the club. “In reality, the way Krystal teaches is, nobody knows how to do anything in that room, that is her assumption pretty much.”
Storms says that Bradley teaches the class like it’s everyone’s first class. The environment is supposed to make everyone feel comfortable and there is no need to have a dancing background, she said.
“If you can’t dance, that’s not a problem. We’ll teach you, that’s why it’s a class,” Storms said. “You don’t go into physics class expecting to fully know what every aspect of physics is. No, you go in there to learn.”
Like Vera, Storms heard about the club in her ballroom class. One day she didn’t have anything to do so she decided to show up for the meeting. She was hooked immediately after her first class, she said.
“There’s no one type of dancer here. There’s no one body shape,” said Kianna Price, a 22-year-old senior Africana studies major and secretary of the club. “Your leaders vary in height. There’s not a criteria to be here. You can just come and learn. It’s a real confidence booster.”
Price has been involved since her sophomore year. She has competed in all the competitions she can. She said if she can afford it, she competes.
While the club participates in competitions throughout the school year, students who do not feel comfortable or do not want to compete can choose not to. To help with traveling expenses for the competitions, the club holds various fundraisers, including selling Yankee Candles and popcorn. All the proceeds from the candle fundraiser went straight to the students fund for the competition. Students got about half of the proceeds from the popcorn sale, Storms said.
“We usually do it around competitions,” she said. “Because we realize, OK, we are all broke college kids.”
The farthest the club has traveled to compete has been to Ohio for two competitions. One was called the Arnold Classic, which is hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. They were one couple away from taking home the trophy for top university. They had eight people competing and other universities had over 100 competitors, Bradley said.
The ballroom club meets every Monday and Wednesday at 8 p.m. and each class is about 45 minutes long. People who are interested in going can get four free classes. After that, members pay a fee of $45. This covers their lessons for the entire semester.
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