Dancing with the 'Birds: Ballroom

On weekday evenings, the UBC campus starts to empty as students disperse out of classes and head home for the night. Yet, in the SUB Ballroom, music is starting to play and couples are taking to the floor — class is starting for the UBC Dance Club. 

Founded in 1949, the UBC Dance Club has held firm the title of the leading ballroom club on campus for the last 66 years. Led this year by President Jake Larson, the club sits at close to 300 members and ranges from undergraduate students to community members as it gets set for another year of events and classes for the UBC community. 

Although there has been a downtrend in ballroom dancing popularity over the last few years in Vancouver, Larson said UBC Dance Club is filling a big gap on the UBC campus. 

“It fills a niche,” he said. “With other dances, like hip-hop, you aren’t necessarily dancing with another person. In other more social partner dance clubs, there’s not necessarily an opportunity to grow as a partnership. When you dance with someone in our classes, you get to know that person and you dance with them ... it helps you learn communication skills.”

Internal Vice President Elizabeth Leung said Dance Club also allows people to share something of themselves in a social environment. Their slogan, "Dance with me," hopes to instill this combination of dance and socializing by allowing you to spend one-on-one time with another person.

It also provides a good foundation for ballroom newcomers and is tailored to provide lots of classes and availability for those who want to be good at the sport, Larson said. 

“To ballpark it, I would say 90 per cent of our incoming members have never danced before in their life,” Leung said. “They’re at university and they want to try something new. It’s a social outlet as well as a physical activity.”

For those looking to further their ballroom technique, there is also Dance Club’s sister club — Formation DanceSport. Started 10 years ago, Formation DanceSport grew out of the UBC Dance Club when it was at its highest registration. This year, Leung and her executive team brought it back to UBC after very successful auditions earlier this term.

According to Larson, Formation DanceSport is a performance team for people who are past the Dance Club level and are aiming to further their technique. It is focused on teams rather than a catering to a large community. Formation DanceSport offers technique classes that teach students how to move cleanly and have an edge in competition rather than simply teaching the steps to a dance.  

For those looking for a competitive team atmosphere, Formation DanceSport also has its own Latin performance team made up of eight couples — teamwork is an essential part of their club. 

“For Formations, you have that team mentality. You get to know your team very well,” Leung said. “Our team is still brand new and awkward. It’ll take maybe a week or two before everyone comes out of their shell, just like on a soccer team or a football team. The only difference is you’re dancing.”

As for where the team is going, Leung said she’s not entirely sure but is excited that the team is at least headed somewhere again. 

“Wherever they want to go, I’m willing to lead the charge,” she said. 

As a member of both Dance Club and Formations DanceSport, Leung said the clubs are a huge part of her life today at UBC — particularly in her start at Dance Club. 

“My first year, I didn’t have a lot of friends outside of classes. So I joined for that. I can’t imagine where I would be now in my fourth year without the club,” she said. “Every class is a little bit special and new.”

Interested in checking out either of these clubs? See the following links: