What once started as a way to socialize, ballroom dancing has new flitted its way across the floor and has become a highly popular form of competition and entertainment. And whether it is the mambo, waltz or jitterbug, Southern Utah University Thunderbirds are finding their own beat and winning hearts across the globe.
Their most recent excursion took them to Puerto Rico where they danced across the island dominating the floor. First going to the tropical island to help the dancers increase their confidence and create a culminating event for the year, also led the dancing birds to an increased appreciation for diverse cultures.
“Different cultures respond in different ways to a performance,” stated Kay Andersen, chair of the Department of Theatre & Dance and accompanied the Ballroom Dance Company to Puerto Rico. “Puerto Ricans don’t get as much exposure to ballroom dancing comparatively and because of that you could feel an energy emanating from the crowd you just don’t get in the states.”
The SUU Ballroom Dance Company performed for groups ranging from a hospital to a modern art museum and even the Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro García Padilla.
Ryann Woodbury, junior physical education major from Salt Lake City, Utah, said of the performances, “Typically when we perform we know ahead of time the type of space we will be working with, but performing in Puerto Rico we didn’t have the ability. When it came time to perform in front of the governor on a new stage, it was scary, but it forced us to do everything perfectly.”
Performing the tango, waltz, mambo, jitterbug, salsa and lindy hop for numerous crowds, the SUU Ballroom Dance Company twirled into standing ovations across Puerto Rico.
Along with astonishing crowds in Puerto Rico, the SUU Ballroom Dance Company wowed judges at numerous competitions, one of which was the 2014 Mustang Ball, a competitive collegiate ballroom dance competition with representatives from 12 universities, such as San Jose State College, University of California, San Diego, Arizona State University, and University of Nevada, Las Vegas. SUU placed first in eleven categories, second in five categories and seven third place medals.
Speaking to the impressive accomplishments of the team, Woodbury stated, “Our Company worked extremely hard this past year to perform well and to be great ambassadors of this University. This was just one of the ways I have been able to experience so much more at SUU.”