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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Students have a ‘BLAST’ at NU’s annual ballroom dancing competition

Joyce Li/The Daily Northwestern
Weinberg junior and BLAST president Kaytlyn Mittag performs with Weinberg sophomore and BLAST co-captain Andre Shportko. They placed first in the Novice International Standard category.

Over 150 students dipped, twirled and sashayed Saturday in the Northwestern DanceSport Classic, a ballroom dance competition hosted by NU’s Ballroom, Latin and Swing Team, or BLAST, at the Woman’s Club of Evanston. 

Competitors hailed from schools across the Midwest, including the University of Chicago, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Purdue University. 

“My favorite part (of collegiate ballroom) is definitely just seeing all the friends that I make throughout the competitions,” UChicago graduate student Colin Richter said. “It’s almost like an involuntary friend reunion that happens every few months.” 

According to Weinberg sophomore Abby Miggiani, the coordinator of NU DanceSport Classic, the competition has been held sporadically since 2006, but became an annual event in 2019, save for a cancellation in 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

The competition was originally held in the Louis Room in Norris University Center, but BLAST members said the room was carpeted in 2022. Ballroom dance requires a non-carpeted floor, so the team relocated to the Women’s Club. 

Miggiani said the competition’s new location makes it unique among collegiate-level ballroom competitions — typically held in gymnasiums. 

“The venue just adds a layer of poshness or archaic, historical feeling to it, which people normally associate with ballroom,” Miggiani said. 

According to Miggiani, the aesthetic of the venue stands in stark contrast with the lively, casual atmosphere of the competition. While dancers competed, spectators gathered around the floor, cheering and yelling out the numbers of their favorite dancers. 

The all-day competition featured four main genres: American Smooth, International Standard, American Rhythm and International Latin. Each genre consists of a different set of dances. For instance, American Rhythm consists of the Rumba, Cha-Cha, Bolero, Mambo and Swing. 

Weinberg junior and BLAST President Kaytlyn Mittag said dancers tend to compete in multiple categories. 

Mittag, who had experience in ballet and jazz before she joined BLAST, said one of her favorite things about ballroom dance is the variety of styles she gets to try. 

“If you do ballet, you get to do ballet,” she said. “But if you’re doing ballroom, you get to do waltz and tango and quickstep, and so on and so forth.”  

Outside of competition, BLAST offers weekly lessons for beginner and intermediate dancers. Like many members, both Mittag and Miggiani joined the club with no prior experience in ballroom dance. 

Mittag said she loves the accessibility and versatility of ballroom dance, especially when it comes to dancing with different people.

“​​You can dance it with anyone who even kind of knows how to dance,” she said. “So even if it’s your first time dancing with somebody, you could still go out there and dance together.” 

The team also often hosts dance socials, including an upcoming Valentine’s Day social on Feb. 17 hosted in collaboration with NuTango, according to Miggiani. 

She said she appreciates how the spontaneous nature of ballroom fosters connection between dance partners –– and even those from other groups.

“When you go out on the floor…you can go into any move and you won’t know beforehand,” Miggiani said. “It teaches you how to read body language in a way that you might not normally know.”

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