The gymnasium of MacArthur Elementary School was filled with ballroom dancers and judges for the Binghamton Ballroom Dance Revolution. Held on March 25, the competition featured roughly 100 dancers from 10 different schools, including Binghamton University, Rutgers University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
When most people think about ballroom dancing, images of regal balls and long gowns come to mind. For members of the Binghamton Ballroom Dance Team (BBDT), however, ballroom dancing is both the art of creating elegant motion with their bodies across the dance floor and a vessel for team competition.
Throughout the competition, a total of 19 dances were performed across four different styles — smooth, standard, rhythm and Latin — and they proceeded in that order. Dancers competed at the newcomer, bronze, silver, gold or open level depending on skill level and time spent dancing.
The Binghamton Ballroom Dance Revolution had an energized atmosphere that added to the competitive spirit. Yulia Garaeva, captain of the BBDT and a junior majoring in history, compared this competition to others that she has attended.
“I think this one is a lot more lively,” Garaeva said. “I would say it’s because a lot of the local Binghamton area is here to cheer us on. I feel like the Binghamton dance team also cheers on other teams, so that no matter what team comes up, we have a bunch of people screaming and being supportive. I think that is something that is a lot different than the higher-up competitions.”
Mark Stein, ‘22, came back to Binghamton to compete at the event. Stein is a former captain of the BBDT and has stayed involved with the team postgraduation. He discussed the unique atmosphere of the event.
“I would say it is really special because it is in Binghamton,” Stein said. “And I think it is great to see both current students as well as alumni from [BU] all come in and cheer. It is also great to see other students come in from [BU] to support the team.”
On the other side of things, this was the first competition for Jared Pisetzner, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, politics and law, who is new member of the BBDT. Pisetzner spoke about the learning experience of attending his first competition.
“I need to brush my shoes off because I was slipping around a little bit,” Pisetzner said. “And besides that, I wasn’t smiling. I was told as a note that I should smile more.”
Beyond the competitors, the event was also an excellent opportunity for students and community members to experience collegiate ballroom. Eina Baniel, a junior majoring in biology and former member of the BBDT, described the differences between competing and attending a ballroom competition.
“It is definitely a very different experience,” Baniel said. “It is a lot more fun. Well, competing is definitely fun, but it is just a different type of fun. Now I get to focus on cheering for my friends and actually experiencing and watching instead of being focused on myself and performing.”
Likewise, community members, family and friends of the competitors also showed up to the competition to support the BBDT. Wendy Carpenter, the mother of Rebecca Carpenter — a team member and a sophomore majoring in computer engineering — visited from Utica, New York for the competition. She emphazised the value of students at BU having the opportunity to learn ballroom dancing.
“I just find it amazing that this is one of the options for students to partake in,” Carpenter said. “These were not things that I had when I was in school. So I think it’s really great that students have options like this to have extra extracurricular activities.”
Overall, the BBDT performed excellently at the event, and members of the team placed in almost every competition at all levels. Stein discussed how he feels the team has done since his graduation.
“I would say they’re doing fantastic,” Stein said. “As a former captain of the team, I am super proud of them. They have been continuing to grow even from when I graduated until now — they are just continuing to grow and do better and better.”
Going forward, the BBDT hopes to continue competing at competitions like the Binghamton Ballroom Dance Revolution, as well as make ballroom accessible for everyone. Garaeva explained how the team is committed to making ballroom an inclusive sport.
“I think ballroom can be very intimidating and very exclusive,” Garaeva said. “People think there are body types or certain aspects you need to have, especially with it being quite a Eurocentric art in the past. But honestly, it’s for everyone. We have so much diversity on our team. So if anyone wants to try ballroom, you don’t have to have any experience, just try out for the team.”