We know Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in heels. And if you’ve ever tried to dance – really dance – you can appreciate the accomplishment.
The U of T Ballroom Dance Club has been helping people dance – both forwards and backwards – for 20 years now. It celebrated its anniversary with a lavish ball in March held in the Blue Barracks of historic Fort York. The club that started as a small community of fancy-footed dance-lovers has evolved into a busy organization that offers outings and a wide range of lessons to more than 300 members from the university community and beyond.
As Chuan Chee, the group’s class co-ordinator, explains, the dancing – from the waltz, tango and foxtrot, to the fabulously named Latin cha-cha – is done “international style.” This allows members to compete in high-level DanceSport – Fred and Ginger’s “social style” just doesn’t cut it.
Chee, now in his 14th year with the club, has been competing in the weird and wonderful world of ballroom dance since 1996 with his wife, Jean. They are at the second-highest level of amateur DanceSport, where competition is stiff and costumes can cost thousands. Complicated figures are choreographed to the specifications of the international guidelines – one false step and a couple can be disqualified. The Chees have done well despite the pressure; they credit in part their involvement with the U of T club.
Club co-ordinator Devraj Harry-Paul (BCom 1993 UC, MBA 1997) prefers to keep it competitive-free. He calls ballroom dancing “passion and romance to music.” Yuko Hirodo, a PhD candidate at OISE, might agree. She and her new husband met in class last September, and perfected their wedding-reception waltz there, too.
Physical education students can now take classes as an elective, and eventually, the group hopes to make ballroom dancing a Varsity sport.
A U of T lab is working with actors, writers and directors on how they could harness AI and other emerging technologies to generate new ideas and – just maybe – reinvent theatre