As a dense fog drifted through campus Wednesday night, members of the Bates Ballroom Society glided across the hardwood floors of Muskie Archives.
Practice began with the fast-paced and intricate Viennese waltz. Precision is key, as one wrong step can lead to a collision. “Ballroom, believe it or not, is a contact sport,” says lead instructor John Blanchette ’87. “It’s physically demanding. When you finish with a Viennese waltz, I don’t care what kind of shape you’re in — you’re huffing and puffing.”
Many of the current BBS members started by taking a physical education course in ballroom. There, students get an introduction to the different dance styles. BBS co-president Sara Hoye ’17 of Sturbridge, Mass., describes that course as getting students to the point of “doing this at a wedding and you won’t look stupid.” If they show more interest, they move on to Ballroom Society.
Members are encouraged to attend competitions taking place throughout the year, where couples are judged in short dance numbers of differing styles.
Hoye has been dancing since age 5, though before joining BBS last year she had no ballroom experience. As Blanchette and guest instructors introduce new movements, she knows that success will not come immediately. “You’ll understand it intellectually, but making your body do those moves is sometimes just really hard,” Hoye said. “The moment you accomplish it is a really big thing.”
Blanchette, an accomplished ballroom dancer and performer, has been the lead instructor since the 2012-13 academic year. “There will never be a building named after me,” he joked, “but I can bring something back to my alma mater.”