Texas Ballroom concludes Free Week

Jasmine C. Johnson

On Wednesday, about 250 people gathered in Anna Hiss Gymnasium to learn how to waltz and tango. Some came as couples, others alone. As each person was greeted by the Texas Ballroom executive board members, they were asked to create name tags. Backpacks and personal belongings filled the walls near the entrance where the participants waited for the class to begin. Shortly after 8 p.m., the instructor, Kelvin Pho, took center stage and separated the men from the women.  With about 150 women on the right side of the ballroom and 100 men on the left, the third night of Free Week, an open preview for the Texas Ballroom Dance Club began.

Within the next few weeks, the participants will decide if they want to return to classes and even become a member. While there is no official count of new members just yet, Shelley Fang, club president and biology and psychology senior, has noticed the growth.

“My first year, this room was a lot emptier,” Fang said. “Our returning members have increased so we’re better at retaining members and our skill level has increased.”

Fang, who is beginning her fourth year with the club and her first as its president, has competed for the club’s ballroom team for the last three years. Last year, she and her partner, biology senior Duncan Sudarshan, made it to the semifinals of Silver Tango.

“It was a really humbling experience, but it gives you an opportunity to explore your limits as a dancer,” Fang said. “It’s so inspirational because we see other college dancers but also see the professionals for free.”

The club has a country and ballroom competitive team. While most of the members on the club’s executive board compete on either or both of these teams, other members join for fun. Membership is $50 per semester and after a semester of membership, members are eligible to join the competitive teams.

Only current UT students, faculty and staff are eligible to become members, but the club occasionally hosts dances and socials that are open to the public.

For some members, it’s that social aspect of the club that makes it so enjoyable.

“There’s the dancing and then there’s the social aspect,” computer science sophomore Arianna Mahan said. “I don’t know which one I like better. Everyone is just so nice. Even if you don’t get something, people will help you.”

Mahan joined the club during her freshman year and now serves as the club’s webmaster. Last semester, she competed on both competitive teams.

“I’m really looking forward to the Texas Hoedown,” Mahan said. “It was my favorite competition last year because I worked really hard to learn all the country dances in order to compete in that competition.”

The club’s first social, the Uptown Dance Country Social, will be held Sep. 11 from 8-11 p.m. at 8868 Research Boulevard, Building #706.

At the social, participants will learn about the eight dances in the country circuit.