The Claremont Colleges Ballroom Dance Company (CCBDC) stepped into the spotlight on Oct. 28, hosting the Claremont Intercollegiate Showdown, the first event in this year’s Collegiate Dancesport Association (CDA) competition circuit. The Showdown kicked off the second season for the CDA, a network that brings together ballroom dance teams from several West Coast universities, including the Claremont Colleges, the University of Southern California and California Polytechnic State University.
The day-long competition featured smooth, standard, rhythm, Latin and nightclub events broken down by experience and skill level. Each category was followed by a social dancing period while the judges deliberated and, ultimately, results and ask-the-judges panels. The events consisted of all the couples on the dance floor at once performing their routines.
Although the Showdown has previously been held in Rains Center, Pomona College’s athletic facility, this year’s competitors gathered in Edmunds Ballroom. CCBDC President Lazaros Chalkias PO ’16 explained that intercollegiate ballroom competitions traditionally take place in the host university’s gym, but cited space and air conditioning as motives behind the change of venue. Breaking with tradition seems to have paid off for CCBDC.
“We’ve gotten really positive feedback,” Chalkias said. “A lot of people like the new location.”
With over 70 couples from Claremont as well as from Arizona State University and University of California, Riverside, participating, one of the Showdown’s central goals was to welcome students from other schools in order to build the region’s collegiate ballroom community. This aligns with the CDA’s mission to “bring students together from multiple colleges and universities to facilitate better access to ballroom dance,” as outlined on its website.
Despite the significance of CCBDC’s relationship with other colleges, Chalkias also stressed the importance of the Showdown for the home team. The Claremont ballroom community is very active and also very close-knit. Current students and CCBDC alumni alike were involved in every aspect of the competition, from organizing and judging to DJing and dancing. Former CCBDC president Etta Iannccone SC ’14 returned to campus to provide discounted makeup and costuming for students on behalf of the Glamour Project, an organization chiefly designed to promote confidence among disadvantaged groups.
With so much community involvement at every level of the Showdown’s organization, a great deal of focus went into creating a space for the Claremont Colleges’ own dancers to compete. In particular, the event provided an arena for CCBDC’s first-time dancers, who don’t typically travel to compete with the more-advanced company team, to show off their skills.
“One of our missions with Showdown is providing exciting dance opportunities for students, especially for first-time dancers,” Chalkias said. “We want to get them involved.”
Indeed, many aspects of the event are designed to encourage newcomers to get involved. First-time dancers compete for free, and much effort is put into creating a low-stress environment for less-experienced participants. Unique to Claremont’s Showdown is the rookie-veteran division, in which competitors who have been dancing for less than six months pair up with more seasoned dancers, allowing them to learn at a higher level without the pressure of competing at a higher level.
Giselle de la Torre Pinedo PO ’19 had never been trained in dance before she joined CCBDC but heard about the Showdown and was excited to compete.
“I asked Daniel Merritt—he’s on the tour team—if he wanted to dance with me and so he taught me a quickstep routine and we practiced that and competed,” she explained. “That was cool. I didn’t have to know anything and I could compete. Rookie-vet is not a lot of pressure because half of the people haven’t danced anything before.”
For newcomers, having the Showdown in Claremont provided a learning opportunity and a low-stress introduction to ballroom competition. As for the colleges’ returning dancers, “this is our home,” said Chalkias.