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Photo Gallery | UW Student Organization To Host Ballroom Dance Competition

University of Wisconsin-Madison sophomore Caitlin Kirby enjoyed her first year in Madison, but there was something she was missing. She found it on the dance floor.

"In high school, I played competitive softball pretty seriously, and it was something that I really was missing last year at school," Kirby said. "So it's nice to get out there and compete and line myself up and see how I'm doing."

Kirby will be among hundreds of ballroom dancers from across the country taking part in what organizers hope will be the first annual Badger Ballroom Dancesport Classic.

"I'm completely new to this," Kirby said. "I've never competed before. It's kind of nice to get the jitters out and do it here."

Kirby, who started dancing three weeks ago, will be competing with Travis Raines, a recent college graduate, who moved to Madison for a job. The two became dance partners and now friends with the help of the Badger Ballroom Dance Team, the campus organization that is organizing Madison's first major ballroom dance competition.

"It is kind of like watching "Dancing With the Stars," but here in Madison, and for much less than a plane ticket to California and a ticket to go to the show," said Anna Nadon, Badger Ballroom Dance Team captain.

BBDT is one of three student organizations on the UW campus that centers on ballroom dancing. Madtown Ballroom focuses on performance, while UWMBA targets the social gatherings, hosting weekly dances for the community.

"We focus a lot more on ballroom technique, a lot more on just competitive dancing, so we teach you to be better dancers overall and focus in on technique so you can be good competitive dancers, social dancers or a good performer," Nadon said.

But this year, the organization is taking a huge step forward into the national spotlight. A team that in years passed had to travel on weekends to compete, ha transitioned, at least for this weekend into host instead of visitor.

"We finally have a great space. Union South just opened. Varsity Hall is the perfect spot, great wood floors, great space, so this year is the first year we are trying to host our own competition and hopefully it will go off without a hitch," Nadon said.

So in addition to the practice dance moves, team leaders have also been coordinating a daylong competition, for dancers of all skill levels on Saturday, Oct. 29.

"People who don't feel like they can invest the time and money on our own team to compete and go to say Purdue or Michigan or that they don't want to spend that whole weekend, they can still compete," Nadon said. "Now they don't have to travel. They can just get up in the morning, roll out of bed and walk to the competition at Varsity Hall."

Nadon said they are also hoping to draw a big crowd at Union South, not just to dance, but to watch.

"What I really love about being (a member of BBDT) is being able to show people how much fun I've had and how much fun they can have doing ballroom," Nadon said.

Nadon, a journalism major, said she never took a step into a ballroom until she came to Madison.

"During the day I sit at a desk, and then at night I come out and dance Latin and standard. I get to do all this fun stuff and then travel and compete on the weekends," Nadon said. "It's a really great outlet, just fun and creative and you can be that person that you always wanted to be."

She said she hopes those on campus and in the community come to Union South to watch the competition and then reach out to BBDT to try out ballroom dancing for themselves.

"It's always really great when we get a whole bunch of new people, and it's really great when we get them out on the competition floor," Nadon said. "You can talk about a competition all you want, but until you go out on the floor and do it, it's just a whole different experience."

It's an experience that Raines and Kirby are excited will be their first competition together.

"We're actually competing the weekend after at Purdue, so it's kind of nice warm-up," Kirby said.

The Badger Ballroom Dancesport Classic starts at 8 a.m. with the evening events starting back up at 7:30 p.m. The event is free, but there is a charge for the evening show starting at 9 p.m. It features Eugene Katsevman and Maria Manusova, one of the top Latin dance couples in the world. Tickets will be available for students with a student ID for $5 and $10 for nonstudents.

Watch recent video of WISC-TV's Sarah Carlson competing in a charity dance event for the Rainbow Project. The event was held in Varsity Hall, the same room that will host Saturday's competition.



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