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Ballroom Dancers Win Big

Take 17 Blue Ribbons at Adams House Competition

By Joann S. Chan, Contributing Reporter

Members of Harvard's fledgling ballroom dance team kicked up their heels and waltzed off with 17 blue ribbons at a dance competition held Saturday in the Adams House dining hall.

The Harvard A team carried off first-place honors in the "American style" category, outmaneuvering Carnegie-Mellon University, which placed second. The Harvard B team captured third place, followed by MIT in fourth place.

Catholic University of Washington, D.C. dominated in the "international style" competition, leaving Harvard A and B to follow a close second and third.

The tournament was the final event in a two-day dance festival that opened Friday night with a benefit waltz. The benefit dance featured a "Phantom of the Opera" presentation headlined by entertainers Marguerite M. Hanlon '19-'20 and John Ford.

During the festival, dancers also attended workshops and lectures emphasizing the importance of presentation and grooming. Spectators were treated to an exhibition performance by Catholic University's Sean Teague and Maria Hallahan, the U.S. junior champion ballroom dance couple.

"The dance festival was a wonderful opportunity for me to get my techniques down," said team member Nora Lee Notzon '95. "This was our first invitational, and it's great to have the other schools come. Also, the presentations by the other dancers are inspirational."

Notzon said that ballroom dancing has grown in popularity at Harvard and other college campuses, in part due to movies such as "Dirty Dancing" and "Salsa."

'A Fad'

"It's a fad," said team member Asha E. Weinstein '93, adding that she hopes more people join the team as its members' ability improves.

"When it goes just right, it feels wonderful, you're floating," she said. "It's a lot of fun, a lot of work, like any sport. There'll be a lot of blisters after this weekend."

Hoang Quan Vu '92, president of the year-old team, said Harvard rates first for ballroom dancing among New England schools, and is estimated to be third in national rankings. He said the team has consistently taken first-or second-place in its seven-tournament history.

In competition dancing, each couple is evaluated by three professional judges, who award the dancers three to five points, with a maximum score of 15. Criteria include floor craft, musical interpretation and rhythm, in addition to presentation matters such as posture and grooming.

In contrast with other schools who practice with a coach, the Harvard team invites a variety of professionals to teach them new steps.

The team actively recruits new members, Vu said, and especially encourages male dancers to join. "Other teams are static--they grab people at the last minute," Vu said. "We build people from the bottom up, so when the veterans are gone, others are there to teach the beginners."

Vu characterized the team as "very friendly," noting that members who do not compete can still participate in team activities.

The team has traveled to invitationals around Massachusetts, Florida and Connecticut, and plans to compete in New York and Rhode Island. In addition, the team offers dance classes at the Malkin Athletic Center and will be giving free waltz lessons at the Harvard-Radcliffe Or-chestra Valentine's benefit waltz on Saturday.

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