Northwestern’s Ballroom Latin and Swing Team creates inclusive environment for new and experienced dancers


Photo courtesy of Bryan Sanchez

BLAST attended the Badger Ballroom DanceSport Classic in Fall Quarter. BLAST is Northwestern’s Ballroom Latin and Swing Team.

Jamie Kim, Assistant Arts and Entertainment Editor

Weinberg junior and current co-captain of Northwestern’s Ballroom Latin and Swing Team Isabelle Carrillo said she always wanted to learn ballroom, but was unsure if there was a studio in her hometown. When she saw BLAST perform at Rock the Lake, she said she immediately knew she wanted to join.

Carrillo said BLAST works to teach a variety of ballroom and Latin styles of dance to students with no dance experience. 

“We work to help people learn new things, step outside of their comfort zone, learn partner dancing if they haven’t before and also create a sense of community,” Carrillo said. 

BLAST participates in dance competitions, with categories incorporating styles ranging from waltz and foxtrot to cha-cha and rumba.

McCormick senior and co-captain Daniel Soto said Latin styles tend to be characterized by sharp movements, so footwork is very important. Comparatively, he said ballroom styles have smooth movements that flow with a rise-and-fall pattern. 

Last fall, Carrillo said BLAST attended the Purdue Ballroom Classic competition and the Badger Ballroom DanceSport Classic. Northwestern will host its DanceSport Classic in the spring.

For competitions, BLAST provides costumes as well as makeup and hair tutorials. Carrillo said dancers typically have two costumes: one for ballroom dances and another for Latin dances. 

Carrillo said the competition team is open to all dancers. 

“That’s one thing that’s really special about BLAST,” she said. “We’re no cuts, so the process can be as involved as you want it.”

BLAST offers beginner classes taught by members of the executive board and intermediate and advanced lessons taught by Matt Rivers, a professional ballroom dancer. Beginner classes are drop-in and held on Sundays from 3 to 5 p.m. at Chicago Ballet Arts. 

SESP senior and president of BLAST Bryan Sanchez said beginner classes rotate through different dance styles. 

“We try to keep it as open as possible so that everyone who comes to a BLAST beginner lesson can come and feel comfortable and feel like they’re not being left behind,” Sanchez said. 

BLAST also hosts social dancing events. In January, BLAST hosted a Snow Ball that featured dance styles such as swing and waltz. 

Soto said the group also incorporates social styles to encourage members of the public to dance. 

“We’re trying to invite as many people from the community as possible not only to see what we do with some of our more competition styles but just kind of have an outlet to dance and have fun,” Soto said. 

For BLAST’s spring show, members choreograph pieces in a variety of styles. Past styles have included the Argentine tango, West Coast swing and disco. Soto said the team will likely not have a spring show this year but is aiming for a showcase combining choreographed pieces and social dances involving the audience. 

Sanchez said no cuts are held for the spring show. He said the team uses the spring show to bring new people into the community. 

Sanchez also said he has made many friends through the group and hopes BLAST can create a “safe and comfortable” environment for dancers. 

“We’re all people who just really like dancing and that’s something that we really enjoy as a passion and a hobby and we want to be able to spread that to other people,” Sanchez said. 

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