Ruby Anniversary for Competitive Dance Partnership

August 7, 2014
dancing couple in ballroom competition by Kojo Acquah 2014

If you ever catch a glimpse of students practicing the rhumba on campus, it’s probably not for So You Think You Can Dance? Instead, you’ve likely seen the all-star members of the MIT-Wellesley Ballroom Dance Team (MITBDT), which celebrates its 40th anniversary this week.

As an MIT blog post describes, the origins of the dance team date back to 1974 when a small group of MIT and Wellesley students joined together to dance a few times a week. The group expanded until it became a full-fledged competitive ballroom team, with a full of host of dancing styles, award-winning coaches, and long practices throughout the week. Wellesley's Clio Flikkema '17 (in blue dress in photo) will serve as the organization's co-president for the coming academic year. All affiliated community members who are interested are welcome to join; most new members are learning salsa, the foxtrot, or the waltz for the first time. It’s hard work, but with dozens of successful competitions, new friends, and many memories, dancers say it’s an unforgettable experience.

The intensity and the fun of ballroom was a delightful surprise for Amy Yuan ’16, a co-president of the 2014-2015 team. “I didn't really know what to expect when I first joined MITBDT,” says the chemistry major. “I thought I would learn a few dance moves and perhaps use ballroom as an excuse to get off campus once in awhile. Two years later, however, ballroom dance became an integral part of my life at Wellesley. Joining the ballroom team has not only introduced me to dance technique and overall bodily awareness, but has brought me into a caring and diverse community of grad students, undergrads, post-docs, and alumni who share the love of and commitment to ballroom dancing.”

For alum Evelyn Xing ’13, the ballroom dance experience also opened doors to the Greater Boston area. “The Wellesley ballroom team introduced me to the different college communities in Boston,” she says. “I became quite familiar with the city and built great friendships with undergraduate and graduate students from MIT and Harvard.”

The dance team becomes a source of community on campus as well. “As a small group on Wellesley's campus,” says Yuan, “the Wellesley women of MITBDT have a great support system both inside and outside of the ballroom. Chatting on the Peter Pan bus after dance classes, preparing for competitions together, and attending MITBDT events together have created a strong bond among our Wellesley dancers.”

Paulina Sterpe ’15, a double major in philosophy and Italian studies, reflects, “Joining the ballroom team was one of the best decisions I made my first year at Wellesley.... I loved how passionate the team was about dance and I was immediately enchanted by the sport: the music, the makeup and hair, the shoes, the costumes, and the dances themselves. Ballroom is so much more than Dancing with the Stars and people don't really realize that until they jump head-first into the sport. It's a lot of time, a lot of focus, and it's emotionally and physically demanding.”

She adds, “Dancers are athletes who can do everything forwards, backwards, and in heels!”