Ballroom Dance Club offers free lessons to attract new members

The club’s secretary said membership increased 40 percent last semester alone.

The University Ballroom Dance Club has been around for 27 years, but its officers said they have seen surprisingly strong interest during the last few semesters.

Club secretary Sarah Miller said membership increased 40 percent last semester alone. Club members learn dances such as the waltz, foxtrot, cha-cha, rumba, tango and, of course, swing.

“This fall, we had 50 new members in the Ballroom Dance Club,” Miller said. “Last fall, we had 125 members, but now, we have 175 people in the club.”

Miller said the group is now one of the biggest recreational sports clubs on campus and that members are reaching out to even more students with new promotional techniques, creative advertising methods and ballroom dance events.

The club’s current and most-successful promotion continues next week in the

Bierman athletic complex, where students can take free dance lessons during the first two weeks of the semester.

“I think that this has been a great way to get people to join,” said Erin Pettersen. “I heard about the club through a flier. The free lessons give people a chance to come and try ballroom dancing,” the club’s vice president said.

First-year student Emma Gray, who signed up for the club’s free lessons Tuesday night. I want to learn ballroom dancing so I don’t look like a fool if I ever have to dance in public.”

Joining Gray was her boyfriend, first-year student Anders Lindberg.

“I wanted to try it out, because my girlfriend wants me to learn how to dance,” Lindberg said.

Gray said, “Basically we just want to have fun together. I think this will bring us closer.”

Using word of mouth and building community

Like Gray and Lindberg, Miller said, word of mouth has been an essential means of recruiting new dancers, many of whom like to learn with friends.

“Before the free lessons, we put up at least 500 fliers around campus, but we also encourage members to invite their friends,” she said. “Word of mouth has been very effective.”

Miller said the group is offering its members $10 off their membership fees if they get three new people to sign up for lessons.

The club has also used the Internet to promote itself.

“We did a survey last semester, and most people said they found out about the club through seeing the address of the Web site on fliers,” club Treasurer Christine Chan said. “It seems like this year, more people have sought us out.”

Miller said the club strives to foster a dancing community in which students use their skills outside of their regular lessons.

She said that this Halloween, approximately 150 people attended a formal masquerade dance the club had with a live band in the McNamara alumni center.

There are already plans for several dances this semester.

“We are planning on having a big spring dance, but we are also hoping to have smaller dances in Coffman (Union) throughout the semester,” Pettersen said.

Additionally, e-mails are regularly sent out to members about local clubs that offer places to go ballroom dancing around the Twin Cities.

“As a club, we try to go swing dancing once a month at the local clubs,” said a junior and club member. Lyonel San Juan.

Pettersen said, “Our goal is to keep increasing the number of people in the club, but to also keep it fresh for our current members.” She said the club offers “level two” and “level three” classes in which people can learn more challenging dances, such as the samba and tango.

“We don’t have many people in the advanced classes, so we would like to see more people in those,” Pettersen said. “I think that we will continue to grow.”

– Freelance editor Steven Snyder welcomes comments at [email protected]