University of Michigan team hosts 10th Annual Michigan Ballroom Dance Competition
“I couldn’t sleep,” Hughes said. “I just kept thinking, ‘Oh no, I’m going to be dancing in front of these professionals.”
The Ann Arbor seniors were the only high school team in the mostly collegiate competition, hosted by the University of Michigan’s Ballroom Dance Team. U-M has been coaching students at the high school since the beginning of the school year.
“We just made (the competition) totally optional for them,” said Alex Rowan, president of U-M dance team. “It’s just for the experience of being out here.”
The pair competed against more than 300 competitors from about 20 dance studios and universities, including about 60 couples from U-M. Other schools with large delegations included Michigan State University, Ohio State University and Grand Valley State University.
“For the most part, this is a skill and a hobby that college students undertake in college,” Rowan said. “It becomes a very involved team; you kind of get swept off your feet.”
Rowan, who graduated last year, did not start ballroom dancing until college and now competes at the pre-champion level, second only to the champion level.
He said any student can join U-M’s team, which provides students the instruction, practice space and opportunities to compete.
Since starting in 1997, the team now has about 200 active members and has won five consecutive National Collegiate Team Championships.
“It’s just fun to watch everyone compete and be happy,” University of Michigan senior Anastasia Alekseyev said. “It’s a lot about being in the atmosphere.”
Saturday’s atmosphere was high-energy as couples glided across the gymnasium at Saline Middle School, dancing to Latin, swing and waltz tunes while spectators cheered from the sidelines.
Dancers of all levels, ranging from newcomers to champions, competed for ribbons, roses and scholarships.
“It brings out a different side of you,” Alekseyev said, describing herself as meek and shy. “When I compete I become more excited and outgoing.”
That feeling echoed for Brabson, who despite only being at the sport for a few months, said she has already become more confident.
“I’ve opened up more,” she said. “Now I do a whole lot of stuff I don’t usually do.”
While Hughes and Brabson did not place in the competition, they did make it to round two out of four in the rhumba.
“We were really excited,” Brabson said. “I’m going to keep doing this for as long as I can.”