Twelve Houghton students will be travelling to Columbus today to compete against collegiate ballroom dancers from across the country in the Ohio Star Ball. While there, they will have the opportunity to watch the professional competition taking place the same weekend – one of the foremost in the country. “I’m ecstatic to be taking eleven students to one of the largest Dancesport competitions in the United States,” said club president Kaitlyn Nikirk ‘18, one of the leaders of the Houghton dance club since its inception last year. “World champions have competed in the professional levels at the Ohio Star Ball, so even just being able to see the pro competition will be an amazing experience for them.”
A swing dancing group, originally called Jive 101, has existed on campus since 2011, but students have only had the opportunity to participate and compete in ballroom dancing this past year. Kaitlyn Nikirk founded the ballroom team in the fall of 2016, starting out by learning from YouTube and Facetiming with her coach from the University of Buffalo. Club members danced – and won- a number of ribbons at the Cornell Dancesport Classic in fall 2016 and at other competitions near Albany and at Princeton in spring and fall 2017. The Ohio Star Ball will be the largest event the club has attended, and the team the largest that Houghton has sent.
Many of the students started out dancing hesitantly, unsure if it would be something they would enjoy, only to discover a love for it. Adam Barna ‘20 said, “I chose to stick with ballroom because it is an escape from all my stresses from school.” Other students appreciated the opportunity to try a different activity. “It has provided me with the challenge to push myself outside my comfort zone to do something new,” commented Abigail Wilkerson ‘21. She observed also how her balance and posture have improved through dancing and how much she enjoys the social aspect of being part of a dance team. “I stuck with it despite my inner tomboy,” she joked, and added, “I look forward to going to Ohio and demonstrating what I’ve learned.”
Kaitlyn Nikirk also described how she’s observed growth through dance. “When I started dancing last year I couldn’t tell 3/4 music from 4/4, and my arms were just two floppy noodles that didn’t know what to do with themselves.” Now, however, she is the most advanced dancer in the club, and is training a new group of students in more than a dozen styles of dance. “I found something I loved, and was determined to be good at it,” she concluded.
Her story echoes the accounts of several club members who have reported new poise, skill and confidence through dance, in addition to the fun they had in the process. “It’s really mind blowing to me to see how the team continues to grow, and how quickly those with no dancing background dive into the dancing,” Kaitlyn Nikirk said. “If you can walk, you can dance…No one thinks they’re a dancer until they are.”