SMU dance programs bring a variety of students to the dance floor

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The SMU Ballroom team. (Courtesy of SMU Ballroom)

The bright lights shone down onto the stage of McFarlin Auditorium as SMU junior and musical artist Uche performed at the Program Council B.o.B. concert last spring. As the music echoed through the halls and the crowd cheered, his back up dancers embraced a pinnacle moment in their dancing careers.

“It was a crazy rush to be performing in front of such a large crowd of my peers, and to look backstage and see B.O.B. standing there through the curtain,” junior Hannah Hess said. “It was an extremely surreal and rewarding experience and a highlight of my time at SMU.”

Through her membership in the SMU Hip Hop Club, Hess has the opportunity to broaden her dance experience. Although she is a dance major, Hip Hop Club broadens her dance experience and gives her more opportunities to practice and perform.

SMU has multiple dance programs for both dance majors looking to enhance their skills and non-dance majors wanting to explore their passion. The Hip Hop Club, along with SMU Ballroom and Mustang Mavericks, gives students the opportunity to pursue dance through competitions and performances.

“It was really cool to see them perform,” said junior Claire Dawson, who saw both the Mustang Mavericks at Homecoming and the SMU Hip Hop Club with Uche. “They embody the spirit of SMU and show the artistic ability SMU students have.”

Here’s a waltz through SMU dance programs and how you can partner up.

SMU Ballroom gives students a chance to take classes, go to dance events and social outings with other students interested in the art of ballroom dancing. From the Foxtrot to the Cha Cha, the program covers over 20 different styles of dance in its group lessons.

The organization has a competition team as well as social members for those students with little to no experience in the world of ballroom dance.

Junior and member of the competition team Luke Baker had no prior dance experience before joining the program his freshman year.

“After experiencing the awkwardness of high school dances, the idea of learning how to social dance intrigued me,” said Baker. “I never intended for ballroom to become as big a part of my life as it is today, but over time I fell in love with it and got more and more involved.”

Baker is now the president of SMU Ballroom and confident in his abilities on the dance floor, leaving his awkward dancing days in the past.

He recently won an impromptu versatility dance contest at a ballroom competition at the University of Houston. In a sea of couples from a variety of colleges, he and his partner danced their way to the top of the scoreboard.

“Most people grabbed a partner that they knew very well and went to school with, but I chose to dance with a girl I had met from UT,” said Baker. “There were probably 40 couples that tried the event, but the two of us ended up winning.”

There are three to five practices per week in Studio 3 of the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports, including a social practice Saturdays at 3 p.m. In this practice, Baker said you can learn the basics of how to lead and follow, a necessity for any ballroom dancer. These lessons give members the ability to grab a partner and dance to any style of music.

“You can dance with anyone from anywhere and do something incredible together,” he said.

To join SMU Ballroom, visit their website at www.smuballroom.blogspot.com. Members have to pay $20 per semester and those who compete pay an additional $15.

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Members of the SMU Hip Hop Club strike a pose. (Courtesy of SMU)

For those dancers who like to perform in a group, the SMU Hip Hop Club allows all students to join and practice dancing in what member Hess calls a “judgment free zone.”

“It is such a fun, welcoming, and relaxed environment, and it gives people who danced before college, but didn’t necessarily want to major in dance, a place to keep their passion for movement alive in a low key and recreational setting,” Hess said.

Co-creator of the club and junior, Zoe Filutowski, made the program to give non-dance majors an opportunity to practice dance with their peers.

“We wanted to just create something where people could come and have a good time, no matter what dance experience they have,” Filutowski said.

The club, which does not charge a fee, holds practice every other Monday and members do not have to commit to a set number of practices. To see practice times, videos and more information visit the club’s Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/smuhiphop.

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The Mustang Mavericks performing in McFarlin Auditorium. (Courtesy of SMU)

SMU also has a dance team called the Mustang Mavericks, the University’s only country-western stunt dance team. The stunts performed include dips, flips, aerials and swings.

The program has been a part of SMU for six years and is sponsored by the college cowboy boot company, Gameday Boots.

The team consists of 10 couples and performs at events at SMU and around Dallas. They have performed everywhere from Rangers Stadium to American Airlines Center.

The Mustang Mavericks also teach two step to members of the Dallas community. Junior and captain of the team Alexandra Yauch’s favorite memory was teaching 700 middle school students how to two step and line dance at a Christian conference.

“At one point, as I was standing in a herd of hundreds of students and I just couldn’t help but laugh at how unpredictable and fun being on Mavericks has been,” Yauch said.

With no prior dance experience, she started as an alternate dancer for the team and has worked her way up to captain.

Unlike the SMU Ballroom and the Hip Hop Club, the Mustang Mavericks hold tryouts at the end of each fall semester and can only allow a certain number of students on the team in order to have an equal amount of guys and girls.

The recently held tryouts in the Dedman Rec Center. If you’re interested in trying out next fall, visit the team’s official website at www.smumustangmavericks.com

Members practice about five hours a week. They do not have to pay a fee, but they do have to buy their own country western outfits and boots

“The team spends a lot of time together so it’s important that we all get along and that we encourage community,” Yauch said.

Whether it’s ballroom, country or hip hop, all of the students involved say these programs have introduced them to new people, places and experiences.

SMU Ballroom member Katie Allen enjoys how her team comes together to compete.

“The way we work together to help each other to compete and succeed is great,” Allen said. “Ballroom is full of amazing people and an amazing family.”

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