World champions dance it out with highly competitive nature

BY MARIE BERNARD
Daily Arts Writer
Published February 22, 2002

Unbeknownst to most of this country, ballroom dancing has become a sport. In fact, it will quite possibly join beach volleyball as a recently inducted non-traditional competition in the Summer Olympic Games. Previously considered to be an outmoded art form or something taught to small children before Bar Mitzvahs, the skill now known as "Dancesport" has become something of a national phenomenon, attracting college clubs from all over the country, including schools such as the University of Wisconsin and University of Illinois. Also unbeknownst to most of this country Michigan"s team is pretty damn good.

In October of 2001, the Michigan Ballroom Dance Team won the collegiate national championship at the Ohio Star Ball. "As non-athletic as ballroom dancing may

seem to many," said Sonali Rajan, the publicity director for the team, "opinions change after just five minutes of dancing a fast cha-cha in high-heeled shoes and yes, guys have heels too."

Tomorrow, the aforementioned men in heels and the rest of the team will be hosting their second annual ballroom and Latin dance competition in the Intramural Sports Building. This is an all-day event, from 8 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. It will begin with competitions for medals and end with a fun showcase of the less-traditional dances, such as the meringue and west-coast swing. Last year the event drew in over 200 dancers. "The competition is run very much like a track and field event except in ties and tails and sequined dresses," Rajan said.

The "American Smooth" and "International Style Standard" events the waltz,

tango, foxtrot, quickstep and Viennese waltz will begin early in the morning. The afternoon features American rhythms, including the mambo, bolero, cha-cha, rumba and swing, as well as International Latin events, featuring the cha-cha, rumba, samba, jive and paso doble.

The final rounds of the competition, which begin at 6 p.m., will feature the best dancers in the competition. "The U of M spirit will come on full force in the evening," said Rajan. "This won"t be like any demure ballroom you can watch on PBS this is screaming, high-energy, wolverine spirit."