By Sasha Ray
“One, two, three, cha-cha, one, two, three, cha-cha, one, two, three, cha-cha one!”
The four counts of the rumba were chanted out loud, echoing through Aerobics Studio 1 in the Athletics Center. Eleven curious participants let their interest carry the rhythm during the first intramural ballroom dance lesson on Wednesday, running weekly until May 1. Footwork was quickly picked up to the beat of Charlie Puth’s “How Long,” putting dancers in the mood to sway their hips and move in time to the song. Dancing among strangers and learning to both lead and follow introduced a social exchange within the world of dance.
“Ballroom dance is like a conversation,” instructor Natalie Alanna had told her students. There was to be no interruption, and neither side should have to demand to be listened to. This type of conversation, however, is done solely through physical movement – every engaged motion is a response to one’s partner, in response to their previous step.
“The class is really engaging, and everyone has a positive, supportive attitude about it,” said Tina Pizzuti, a freshman literature major. “This is coming from two people who don’t dance.”
“We’re a little bit out of our element, but the atmosphere has been very accepting, we’re very included here,” said Katelyn Diaz, a freshman journalism student, trying out the class alongside Pizzuti.
Unlike the writing-oriented students, nearly half the class was comprised of BFA dance and acting students looking to learn new ways to move their bodies, or break the mold of the constant grind of tendus, plies, and pointed techniques.
“It’s really exhilarating to dance in a space that’s not the conservatory building,” said Raechelle Manalo, a junior in the dance conservatory. “I think the change of environment is really lovely, and it’s nice to see different faces and move with different bodies.”
After having studied ballroom dance for the past 12 years, Natalie Alanna, 32, teaches ballroom in various places around the New York City and Westchester area. Ballroom has now found its way to Purchase, giving students seeking exercise, artistic inspiration, or a new hobby to strut their stuff. Alanna has the intention of starting a ballroom dance team within the upcoming year to introduce ballroom dance to students. Participants of the intramural ballroom class were taught the basics of the rumba, and will be shown waltz, tango, and cha-cha in the weeks to come.
“I started with ballroom in college, and ever since I started teaching, I thought it would be so great to teach other people in college because it’s such a great scene,” Alanna said about her experience. “It was small when I was doing it, but it’s growing. There are a lot of competitions in the area, and I think if more people were exposed to ballroom, they would be more inclined to learn it.”
With the many different art-based programs within Purchase available to non-arts majors, ballroom dance seems to be the missing piece anticipating addition to the repertoire.
“I wanted to see if I could bring it to this school, since I know there’s a lot of artistic people here,” Alanna said. “I think it could resonate well with a lot of the students, and I knew that there wasn’t a team here, so I wanted to start one.”
The prospective ballroom dance team will likely be initiated in the fall.