The Memorial Union gets a little classier on Wednesday nights when the first floor’s ballroom turns on its lights and the Ballroom Dance Club’s 30 members get moving.
To some it may come as a surprise that the University of Rhode Island has a Ballroom Club and that that many people are into this style of dance anymore, but club president Ryan Vigneau says the social and creative aspect make it important for him.
The club was created in the mid 1990s by the current 17-year instructor, Tim Sorrentino.
Each session is six weeks, allowing for two different focuses each semester. Vigneau said there are 19 styles of dance under ballroom, and in each class they practices two. This session’s 5:30 p.m. class focuses on American foxtrot and mambo, the 6:30 p.m. on American waltz and cha-cha and the final class at 7:30 p.m. is a quickstep and American tango.
“This year we’ve had a large insurgence of new members,” Vigneau said. He said their performance at First Night might have been the reason for some of the sign ups. So far, the club has had good luck retaining its members.
“We had strong advertisment this year because lots of people had no idea there was a ballroom club on campus,” Vigneau said. Â “I’m trying to change that.” They placed flyers all over campus, mainly in dorms, and also used Facebook to spread the word.
It is Vigneau’s fourth year on the ballroom club. He had never danced before his freshman year in college, but said shows like “Dancing With the Stars” initiated his interest. He said his parents always tell him he used to dance around the house when he was young.
Now, Vigneau competes with the university’s club and is in charge of the club’s direction.
“It was fun,” said Vigneau. “It took lots of energy to do because dancers are dancing for a long time and you’re mingling with other schools.”
During the First Night tango performance, Vigneau admitted he was a train wreck with stage fright kicking in. He said there were about 40 people watching the routine they had practiced throughout the summer.
“Some people in ballroom think modern music doesn’t have the right beat for their style of dancing,” said Vigneau. “But I try to teach our club that there is a way.”
The club is currently working on a performance with the new pop song “All About That Bass” by artist Meghan Trainor. Vigneau is trying to progress the club with new ideas and is always open for suggestions from other dancers. He said working with the dancers sparks more creativity and makes them feel more comfortable with the moves.
“Conveying [the choreography] is the hardest part. As I see how people in the performance are doing, I mold the original dance to it,” said Vigneau.
It’s important for Vigneau to make this club more down to earth and casual, in order to shift the proper conception of an old school ballroom dance group. The club’s goal this year is to increase its members and to increase their dance socials, which Vigneau described as pretty much a dance party.
Vigneau said no experience is needed to join the club and that each class costs $5 for students and $10 for community members.