Dancers rumbaed, tangoed, waltzed and merengued to the beats of jazzy East Coast swing and spicy salsa at the Cal Poly Mustang Ball Saturday in Chumash Auditorium. The ball is a DanceSport competiton hosted by the Cal Poly Ballroom Dance Club and DanceSport team.
Over 150 dancers from 13 different studios and schools in California, including USC, Stanford University, UC Berkeley and San Jose State University competed in the event.
The events were divided into three styles: American, international and night club. The competition was open to anyone, so each category was also divided by skill level.
The competition also featured a showcase from professional dancers Porfirio Landeros and Laetitia Santore and open dancing until 11 p.m. after the competion. Dancers were judged based on skill, presentation and showmanship.
“My favorite is the cha-cha,” said biology freshman Ember Jensen. Jensen won a first place ribbon and several third place ribbons in the competition. She said it was her second competition and that she had danced with four different partners that evening, some from different schools.
This was the first ballroom dance competition ever hosted by Cal Poly. Competition Organizer Christopher Ellwood, who also co-advises the Cal Poly Ballroom Dance Club, said he had been trying to organize a competition at Cal Poly for some time.
“Finally, this year we made it happen,” he said.
The event had an even bigger turnout than originally anticipated. Ellwood said he expected about 150 competitors but there were probably closer to 170.
“We had to add extra seats,” he said.
Ellwood began dancing when he was a student at Cal Poly and took the ballroom dance class.
“I got hooked,” he said.
Ellwood teaches dance lessons every Thursday evening at Cal Poly with a different dance being featured every three weeks. Ellwood reviews the basics and adds an extra move at each session. The waltz and the rumba have been taught so far this quarter. The samba will be the next featured dance starting Feb. 22 in the Architecture and Environmental Design building, room 225 at 8 p.m. The lessons are open to dancers at all skill levels and no dance partner or experience is necessary.
Ellwood, a Northridge native, graduated from Cal Poly in 2003 with a computer science degree. He is currently working for a software company in town and said teaching lessons gives him a chance to give back to ballroom dancing.
“It’s such a nice, healthy activity to be involved in,” he said.
The Ballroom Dance Club also goes to the Madonna Inn on Wednesday nights for open ballroom dancing, which Ellwood said is good for practice.
Computer engineering senior Chris Cline came to the Mustang Ball to see his friends compete. Cline dances with the ballroom club and attends Ellwood’s lessons.
“It’s a good way to flirt with people,” he said. “Most girls appreciate a man who can move.”
Cline enjoys dancing mostly for the social aspect and “just goes to have fun,” he said.
“You get as much as you put into it,” he said. “And to have a good time is really not that hard.”