Cal Poly Ballroom Team held their 14th annual Mustang Ball DanceSport Competition on Sunday, Feb. 12 after a two years postponement due to COVID-19. 

Around 16 schools attended the competition including UC San Diego, Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara, according to Christopher Ellwood, Head Coach for Cal Poly Ballroom and Cal Poly Computer Science Alumnus. 

“We have about 80 or so unique events and each of those events have up to three rounds, so probably a couple of hundred dances,” Ellwood said. 

Cal Poly was the first university in the California circuit to host a ballroom dance competition since the onset of the pandemic.  

“We are leading the way of coming out of COVID, so we are proud to be filling that spot,” Ellwood said. “Let’s show how we can have a safe competition post-COVID era and also make it fun.”

To ensure safety, dancers and attendees followed specific COVID-19 guidelines including requiring masks indoors and requiring more social distancing for the couples. 

Dancers on the team said they were excited to be back in person dancing. 

“I think everyone was just really excited to get back into things. Doing things virtually is just not the same,” electrical engineering graduate student Alex Goldstein said. 

Goldstein competes in Latin styles of ballroom dance like Samba, Rumba, Chacha, Jive and Smooth styles which include Waltz, Foxtrot, Tang and Vietnamese Waltz.

The ballroom dance club teaches students to compete in over 28 styles of dance from five categories: International Standard, International Latin, American Smooth, American Rhythm and Nightclub, according to their website

Teaching intricate dances during a pandemic caused issues for the team, according to Ellwood. 

“It was a challenge. Last year we had a bunch of virtual classes. It’s not the same to not have a partner with you and to learn over Zoom,” Ellwood said, “It was difficult because you can’t see peoples’ footwork all the time, it was hard to explain things. It was a challenge.” 

Despite setbacks during the team’s hiatus during the pandemic, the dancers were eager to be able to compete.

“We started seriously getting our choreography in the last few weeks so we were like ‘We’re just going to go out there and just have fun,’” statistics junior Keegan Cianfrone and Goldstein’s dance partner said. “I honestly forgot there were placements, I was like I’m just going to go dance with my friend.”

Cianfrone was a competitive dancer before she came to Cal Poly. 

“[Coming into Cal Poly] I wanted to try a different style of dance and I knew that the club was pretty established and there were a lot of people involved so I went to a Thursday open lesson and tried it out and found a community there,” she said. 

Cianfrone mostly sticks to Latin dance styles, which is what she competed with that day. 

“It makes me feel like I’m on Dancing With the Stars,” Cianfrone said. 

Although Cianfrone had dance experience prior to joining the team, that is not the case for most members. 

“I’d say about 5% of our team has ever danced before they came to Cal Poly, the rest of them learned brand new as students and that’s kind of the beauty of it,” Ellwood said. “You don’t need a partner, you don’t need any experience. Come to one of the lessons we’ll get you dancing.”

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