Campus dance groups see leap in popularity

In the midst of media popularity, dance groups have seen surges in interest and enrollment.

Courtney Sinner

Are you moved to groove? You’re not the only one.

Campus dance groups are seeing surging interest thanks in large part to popular media like television competitions, movies and throwback music.

Dance, in one form or another, seems to be everywhere, from ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and FOX’s “So You Think You Can Dance” to films like “Take the Lead” and the upcoming “Step Up 2.”

where to go

Ballroom dance Club

when: 6:45 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday
where: Bierman Gym
when: 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday
where: Bierman Gym
when: 8 to 10 p.m. Wednesday
where: Peik Gym
Breakdancing club
when: 4 p.m. Tuesday and 2 p.m. Friday
where: Racquetball Courts in University Recreation Center

Samantha Hilby, vice president of U-Swing, said the growth has been happening for the last few years.

The first big push for swing dancing was with the Gap commercials in the late ’90s, she said.

Hilby also credited its growing popularity to the renewal of big-band music from artists such as Michael Bublé and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

“Now that the music is more accessible, it goes hand in hand with TV and movies,” Hilby said.

Although U-Swing has had trouble keeping consistent participation numbers because of changes in meeting venues, they have generated enough interest to start a competition group similar to the one operated by the Ballroom Dance Club.

Peter Westlake, president of the BDC, said interest in the competition group has gone way up even though the competition format of shows like “Dancing with the Stars” isn’t very accurate compared with the real thing.

“The couples are actually all on the floor at once and you get a rating,” Westlake said. “You don’t get the type of immediate, detailed feedback that they get on the show.”

Apart from the competition, however, Westlake said the club itself has 120 to 130 participants at the beginning of each semester.

He said the numbers tend to dwindle over the course of the year, evening out to about 50, but said it’s been a lot stronger lately.

Dan Poniatowski, an aerospace engineering senior, started ballroom dancing about two years ago in the club and has now been involved in the competition group for about a year, he said.

“The club is at least double from when I started,” Poniatowski said. “You come in here, and they’ll be lined up and down the walls in the gym.”

“It’s the cool thing to do now; it’s something people see in the culture,” he said.

Like U-Swing, the Ballroom Dance Club has been switching to more popular music, like Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack,” or Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas’s “Smooth,” which match well with the cha-cha.

“People dance better when they like the music,” Westlake said. “Who wants to listen to their grandpa’s music all night long?”

Darren Schrader, a material science and engineering first-year, said he’s seen interest in his Breakdancing Club grow since he created it last fall.

“The appearances on TV are great because people see a show and it sparks interest,” he said. “Hopefully it results in more people wanting to start breakdancing.”

Kevin Gray, a computer science first-year, said he joined the club because of what he saw on TV.

“People don’t know how hard it is, though,” Gray said. “Not to scare people away, but the pros make it look way easier than it is.”

Schrader said he 100 percent agrees with that.

“The ‘windmill,’ which is supposed to be one of the most basic power moves, is much more difficult than it looks,” he said. It took him a month to learn, practicing every day for about an hour, he said.

Westlake, however, said the biggest misconception with dancing is that it’s hard.

“People are afraid that they’ll look silly, and are intimidated, but it’s really easy to dance at a comfortable, social level,” Westlake said.

Schrader said it’s good the media is generating interest in a sport that some people thought was a dying art, or just a fad.

U-Swing president Serge Berg said the biggest effect of the media is that it “brings out the fact that dancing is still around. It’s a new kind of exposure. It has helped to get people to take that initial step.”