On February 10, the Cal Poly Ballroom club hosted the 12th Annual Mustang Ball, an all day Ballroom and Latin Dance competition in Chumash Auditorium. The ball had the largest attendance in its history, with about 275 competitors and 1,300 event entries. Professionals Maksim Leonov and Anastasia Zhuchenko performed in a Ballroom Showcase during the afternoon.
Cal Poly’s team had approximately 20 people competing in various sections. For six of the couples, it was their first time competing at the Mustang Ball.
“We were up until 3 a.m. practicing and we were here until about 1-ish setting up. There’s a lot of that, she [teammate] got up at 5 :20 am to get her hair and makeup done,” history freshman Meg Sintef said. “We’re pretty nervous. This is our first ballroom dance competition.”
The Ballroom Club waltzed away with many awards by the end of the event. Environmental management and protection junior Kyle Rathbone and business administration sophomore Kim Marquez won first in Newcomer Cha Cha, Samba and Rumba. Economics junior Gianna Garza and mechanical engineering junior Matthew Carlson won first in gold Cha Cha, Samba, Rumba Jive and second in novice Jive. Club president Sadie Rhen and Club publicity officer Nathan Carlson won first in bronze Cha Cha, Samba, Rumba jive, Silver Samba and Jive, second in silver Cha Cha and Rumba.
As the music shifted from smooth jazz to Demi Lovato’s “Confident”, the style and pace of the dancers followed suit. Carlson said Latin Dance is the Cal Poly team’s expertise.
When Carlson joined during his freshman year, the team’s focus on smooth ballroom dance quickly shifted to faster-paced Latin when two remarkable dancers began attending practices.
“During my first year, a freshman couple came to Cal poly and they are junior national champions in Latin dancing, and so they sort of took over the role of coaching our team, which is super cool,” Carlson said. “That’s why our team is super specialized in Latin dancing, because they’ve put a lot of time into the team. This year, starting in the Fall we had a brand new team basically.”
Many of the competitors dressed in very bright outfits with tassels to highlight the movement of their legs and hips throughout the dance. Some of the competitors said that although the judges don’t base their scoring on outfit critique, it can be helpful to try to “catch their eye”.
“Think Dancing with the Stars. It’s fun, it’s sassy, it’s high energy,” Carlson said.
Carlson said he loves dance because he gets to take a break from his intense workload and express himself in a unique way.
“It takes a lot of my time, but it’s super fun and I love it,” Carlson said. “I’m an engineer, so I do a lot of thinking, and it’s fun to do something more artistic. It’s been a really good work-life balance kind of thing. [Ballroom dancing] gives me a well-rounded life.”
Two years ago, club treasurer and liberal studies junior Elisabeth Marciano entered herself unattached into the Ballroom dance competition. Although she had been a dancer all her life, ballroom dancing was a new experience for her. Now, Marciano said she loves partner dance because of the connection and communication it requires with the other dancer.
“It’s really fun because you have to have a really good connection with someone,” Marciano said. “You have to work together and it’s not just about one person’s commitment but how you work together as a whole to make the dance happen.”
Marciano said her favorite aspect of being on the Cal Poly team is the sense of belonging she has found with the other dancers.
“We go there [to practices] for the dance but we end up staying for the community,” Marciano said. “It’s a really awesome group.”