55th Annual UBC Gala Ball
The 55th annual UBC Gala Ball took place earlier this month at the UBC Nest on March 10 & 11th, 2017. Each year, this ballroom dance competition, organized by the UBC Dance Club, is infused with a young, infectious enthusiasm that only a student-run club can produce! Congratulations to the 2016-2017 executive board members and to Crystal Cheng, who was the Chair of this fantastic event this year!
The UBC Dance Club holds a special place in my heart because that’s where I started to dance and where Joel and I first met. Without the Club, I would not have the amazing husband, career and family that I adore so much, so I am extremely grateful to have been a part of it all! ❤️
Today, 20 years from when I first started, I look at how the Dance Club and the Gala Ball have developed, and I couldn’t be more proud. Over the years, after much struggle trying to find themselves (which I have first-hand experience with, being part of the executive board way back when), the Dance Club has successfully created a unique competition that focuses entirely around their incredible, youthful, free spirit!
There is the serious side of the competition, which is great for the local dance community; and then there are the essential extras that the Club infuses into the competition to make it different from all the rest. This includes events like the Club Closed Rising Star (in which you need to be strong in both disciplines: Ballroom & Latin); the Straight-legged Samba (which honestly, is hilarious, but couldn’t be too good for the knees!); and a relatively new event that has gained popularity over the last few years, the same sex competition (pictured on the right). Of course, I’m always looking at things from a teacher’s perspective, but I love how everyone has embraced the same-sex events. I encourage everyone to try it, as it really helps your dancing to understand and especially to experience the role of the other person in the partnership.
One of the events specific to the UBC Gala that I look forward to every year is the Newcomer presentation. I am always so impressed with these Newcomers, who take only 16 classes throughout the school year, and are brave enough to go out there and strut their stuff in front of everyone. It is heart-warming to see how they’ve developed over the school year, and especially exciting to see them all Cha Cha-ing together on time! Way to go everyone!!! 🙂
(Click on the photo to the right to see the video I shot, with Joel cheering in the background!)
Brand new to the UBC Gala Ball this year was the Mixed Proficiency events, where a higher level dancer gets paired with a newbie. I wholeheartedly support this category of events and hope that it will continue for years to come. The great thing about Mixed Proficiency is that it allows the newbie to dance (especially if they are unable to find a partner) and to be mentored by a more experienced fellow dancer. In my opinion, it is a wonderful friendly mentorship program, which allows more people to get out there on the floor. I was pleased to see a full floor of dancers enjoying the experience and dancing their hearts out!
Year after year, the energy and enthusiasm that these young people bring to the dance floor is amazing… and this year’s membership definitely didn’t disappoint. We saw packed floors of semi-finals and even quarter finals in many of the lower competition levels. It always gets my heart fluttering with excitement when I see the hoards of new, excited dancers walk onto the floor for their first heat. Again, I commend everyone for getting out there and competing. It can be a scary thing to put yourself out there on display in front of everyone, but you all did it!
A lot of people are too scared to compete perhaps because of the fear of failure or perhaps because they think they are not good enough to dance in front of people. I see competition as merely a testing ground. It’s like when I used to learn swimming; we had to pass through all the levels: yellow, orange, red, maroon, blue, green, grey and white. Each test made me practice my strokes in order to pass to the next level and gave me a goal to work towards. I never did reach white and become a lifeguard, but do I regret taking the tests and going through the levels? Certainly not. I gained valuable skills along the way and am now a competent Intermediate level swimmer.
With dancing it was the same thing. I didn’t even think twice about whether or not I should compete. I just knew that entering a competition would make me become a better dancer. It wasn’t about winning; it was about improving. In fact, in my first competition ever (believe it or not), at the UBC Gala Ball after my Newcomer year, I didn’t even make it to the finals! So had I told myself then that I had no talent and should not bother competing because I wasn’t going to win, I would not be where I am today.
So to those of you out there who have thought about competing, but were unable to gather the courage to get out there and do it; and to those of you who did compete but are contemplating retiring already because of your results, I encourage you to change your approach and look at it from a different perspective. Again, as I’m learning from my 6 year old, don’t have a fixed mindset that says: “I am no good at this. I should just quit.” Change your words and it’ll change your thinking. A growth mindset would say: “This is a great challenge. I’m going to work hard and train myself to get better.” And really, that’s all you can do. Everything else is out of your control. [If you’re interested in learning about this approach, check out this short article.]
Go for it people!!! Do it for yourself, for your own personal development, as well as to be part of something fun and inclusive. The ballroom community is full of wonderful souls; people who enjoy the love of laughter, music and movement. Even though it is in fact a competitive environment, ballroom dancers (at least the ones that I know) are all supportive and encouraging; they are in no way judging or malicious towards others in order to get ahead. This is a very positive and friendly community that you want to be a part of… Trust me!
Because this is my blog, I am giving a big shoutout to Jorden Hetherington & Shayna Ding who won the Showcase competition with their romantic Viennese Waltz Showdance to “Like I’m Gonna Lose You”, sung by Jasmine Thompson. I was very proud to see them get awarded the trophy (which Joel & I sponsored many years ago), especially since I helped them choreograph the piece (and taught part of it to them on the ferry to IFB last year!).
Congratulations to all the participants of the Showcase competition this year. There was a fantastic turnout with (I believe) 9 entries in total! It was great to see so much participation and to see that a lot of effort had been put into their presentations. Joel and I have always been strong advocates for doing Showdances, as it promotes musicality and creativity that the regular DanceSport arena does not always allow. Good on all of you for developing and exploring your creative side!
Congratulations has to be given to all the executives over the years for creating a brand that the UBC Dance Club can be proud of. Each year, there is a refreshing spirit that comes with the change in executive board, but hopefully, as long as they don’t stray from their roots, they will continue to promote the character that is so unique to the UBC Dance Club.