MU Ballroom Dance Club teaches smooth moves on Zoom rooms

The club welcomes dancers of all skill levels, alone or with a partner, to join their weekly workouts.

For students who spend their weekdays cooped up inside their dorms studying and attending Zoom lectures, the Mizzou Ballroom Dance Club meeting every Thursday at 7 p.m. creates a welcome reprieve, although their downstairs neighbor might not be so keen on the idea.

All students have to do is clear some space on their dorm room floor and make sure their roommate won’t be back too soon. Before they know it, the instructor is having them leap around the room in a quickstep. While the virtual format might seem foreign at first, it offers a safe place for students to attempt the unknown and make mistakes.

Every Thursday, students can expect an hour-long lesson in the basics of ballroom from some of Missouri’s best instructors, including Danyelle Morley and Maysen Wilder from Just Dancing Studio. In each meeting, dancers can look forward to tutorials, basic steps and movements that serve as a stepping stone for more complex dances.

Dancers focused on balance and control of their feet as they learned ballroom movements like quickstep and lockstep on Nov. 12. Morley described the two movements in detail, explaining how dancers should jump lightly and land gracefully back on their feet. She then led the dancers through the movements slowly, which consisted of slides and quick hops from side to side. She encouraged solo dancers to include their arms, which means to have a stiff upper body while completing the steps to simulate the feel of a partner dancing with them.

Vice President Michael Navazhylau said finding good teachers for virtual instruction was important.

“We wanted to push more professional instruction, so we reached out to some ballroom studios in Columbia and the St. Louis area,” Navazhylau said. “We were lucky enough to partner with the Just Dancing Studio in St. Louis, which is probably one of the biggest studios they have in St. Louis at the moment.”

President Alanna Pundsack said the club meetings have taken on a different format from years past.

“We would do a smooth lesson on one day and we’d teach one dance like a waltz or a tango and then we would have a social dance period where people could practice with one another,” Pundsack said. “We’ve been thinking of ways to make it engaging for a single person, maybe in their dorm room.”

Navazhlau and Pundsack have a common love for ballroom, and they want to share it with as many students as they can, whether it’s in person or virtual.

“I did my undergraduate at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities and that’s where I started dancing,” Pundsack said. “I remember I was walking around [campus] my freshman year and I had seen these ads for the ballroom club and had been too chicken to join it because I thought you had to be dating someone that you could bring to the club.”

Ballroom dancing offered a different way to exercise and enjoy music for Pundsack.

“I have always loved music and I wanted to exercise and do something that was fun to me,” Pundsack said. “Exercising at an elliptical is not my preferred way of doing it. I find that really boring and not very motivating.”

Navazhlau agreed although he was introduced to ballroom dancing in a different way.

“I picked up ballroom dancing in middle school and then I kind of took a break from it in high school,” Navazhlau said. “My mother just wanted me to do something out of the house [so] she signed me up for ballroom dancing and then I slowly started to fall in love with it.”

The Mizzou Ballroom Dance club is the perfect way to meet new people and try something new, said Pundsack. Dancers are encouraged to ask questions and show off the moves they have practiced in their free time. The atmosphere is one of encouragement and fun.

“The main thing that prevents people from starting [ballroom dancing] in the first place is the stereotypes,” Pundsack said. “People think it’s stuffy and stiff and that you have to be dating someone or you have to have danced before.”

The club helps to challenge those stereotypes by including social events and basic, easy-to-follow lessons. While the meetings might be different conducted over Zoom, participants still share a feeling of accomplishment and teamwork.

“You get to know people in a way that’s fun and unusual — that you wouldn’t necessarily meet just hanging out and talking at a restaurant or something,” Pundsack said.

More is yet to come for the club, said Navazhylau.

“Throughout the rest of the semester we will be hosting some more social events and general ballroom lessons taught by me or Alanna,” Navazhylau said. “Mizzou is shifting to all online for the rest of the semester, so that kind of plays a factor into it.”

For more information on upcoming meetings, check out the Mizzou Ballroom Dance Club Facebook and Instagram page.

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