Quintessential Kenyon: Student Life, Uncut

The Longest (Dancing) Day

Natalie Kane
March 1, 2018

A day in the life of a Kenyon student can include almost infinite possibilities. More often than not my days are made up of a combination of many activities — I might begin a fairly typical weekday in class, dash to an extracurricular meeting or two in between reading or studying in the afternoon, and then finish up with an evening rehearsal. But every once in a while, certain activities demand an all-day commitment. Theater is notorious for demanding some crazy hours, but what is probably my longest single day each year actually belongs to a different one of my passions — ballroom dance.

In addition to offering casual dance lessons, hosting Friday night social dances in Peirce Pub and sponsoring our annual Dancing With the Kenyon Stars charity fundraiser, as a club sport the Ballroom Dance Club also sends dancers to four intercollegiate competitions each year. Some of these involve an overnight trip, but since the Ohio State University DanceSport Classic is so close to home, we manage to fit the whole experience into one whirlwind day. I have now gone to this competition all four years of college and have loved the experience each time, so I can almost say that I will truly miss setting my alarm for 4 a.m. on some Friday night next February … almost.

Here is a snapshot of one atypical, but thoroughly memorable, day in my Kenyon dancing life:

Saturday, February 17, 2018

4:00 a.m. — It’s time to dance! Well, first it’s time to get dressed in formal clothes and put on full performance makeup, a rather odd sight in a dorm in the middle of the night. To save time, I have already done my hair the night before. We use so much hair gel to keep the styles from moving that you can sleep on your hair without damaging it, which is slightly terrifying but also a great timesaver.

5:45 a.m. — In the dark and cold, we load up the two Kenyon vans we will be taking to the competition. Then it’s time to hit the road to Columbus!

6:45 a.m. — Arrive at OSU just before the 7 a.m. opening of the ballroom. Some dancers put finishing touches on their hair and makeup, while others grab their partners to begin warming up.

8:00 a.m. — Competition begins! The first set of dances will be Smooth (American waltz, tango, foxtrot and Viennese waltz), and my level is up first. I’ll be leading for this part of the competition, so I’d better make sure I have my competitor number pinned to the back of my vest! The judges watch a large group of dancers on the floor in the first round, and then post the numbers of the couples they wish to recall to later rounds.

11:30 a.m. — Time for a costume change! Next up are the Standard dances (international waltz, quickstep, tango, and foxtrot), and I’ll be following in these events. That means a different outfit, different partner and remembering to watch for a different number on the results board. My partner and I make it to semifinals in tango and foxtrot – so close!

Natalie leads the standard dances.

12:30 p.m. — There isn’t really an official lunch break, because there are so many dances and levels to fit into one day. Instead, members of our club take turns running downstairs to the dining hall while other levels are dancing. We make sure a few people are always in the ballroom to take photos and videos and to cheer on our dancers on the floor.

2:30 p.m. — And we’re back with the Rhythm dances: American cha cha, rumba, swing, and mambo. I’m leading at the bronze level and then following at the silver level in this section, so I have my leading number pinned to a vest that I can take on and off over my dress.

4:00 p.m. — In a surprising turn of events, my partner and I make it to a final and finish sixth place in silver cha cha and rumba! The best part about making it to later rounds is that you get to dance more, and there starts to be more space on the floor. I don’t usually consider Rhythm and Latin events to be my strongest, so it just goes to show that you never know.    

5:00 p.m. — But we’re not done yet. Last up are the Latin events (international cha cha, rumba, samba, and jive). Samba and jive are two of the fastest, highest-energy dances, so it’s an extra challenge to compete in them at the very end of a long day of competition.

7:30 p.m. — Another pair on our team made it to a newcomer rumba final! We stick around until the end of the Latin awards presentation, and then pack everything up. Can’t forget to take a few club photos before we leave!

10:30 p.m. — PHEW. After grabbing dinner on the way out of Columbus, we’re home at last! Fortunately, we have all of Sunday to catch our breath.  

Ballroom dance competitors pose after a recent competition.