By: Emily Haney / Photos By: Emily Haney
Twenty-five years ago, the Ballroom Performance Group began what would become a tradition here in Athens. A rehearsal space housing only two spotlights crammed with people and dancers alike premiered the group’s first annual showcase. From then on, each performance has continued to take on an even bigger life of its own into what the show has become today. Ballroom Magic, the event’s official name, has upgraded to a space able to hold even more onlookers and has sold out performances the last couple of years.
In honor of the twenty-five years of ballroom success, the dancers pulled out all the stops for this annual event. The show opened with a montage of dances from past years featuring Ballroom Performance Group Alumni. This is the first time alumni have performed in a show. “We finally got a chance to get to know and interact with alumni. All we’ve seen before is old video footage,” says Joanna Szymonik, a senior exercise and sport science major from Poland. Each song from the montage offered audience members a glimpse into the past. Including the opening montage, the group performed twenty-five numbers in total — twenty-five numbers for twenty-five years.
Other numbers included classic favorites and newer pieces, some choreographed by senior members. Fog, silhouettes and props like tables and chairs brought more visual elements to some of the performances. A handful of pieces focused on the humorous side of dance. Dancers would mouth words to songs like “Hernando’s Hideway” and “It’s Raining Men.” Several performances were of a more serious nature. “Undisclosed Desires” and “All of Me” allowed the audience to be fully immersed in what was happening on stage. These pieces created a bond between the dancers and the spectators. Each piece was more entertaining than the last. “You don’t have to know anything about ballroom to appreciate it,” says Laurel Haislip, a senior communication studies major from Decatur.
“Somebody to Love,” a dance that has now been brought back for four years, was a crowd and dancer favorite of the night. “This has to be my favorite piece to perform in. The costumes. The acting. I love everything about it,” Szymonik says. “Somebody to Love” tells the story of a high school dance where the prom queen and everyone around her try to find their perfect match. The prom queen looks lost as she dances with a football player, a nerd and a cowboy before her match comes sliding in — literally. It’s a heartfelt piece filled with a calculator proposal, a few selfies and a concluding kiss.
A personal favorite for the night had to be “Nothing Else Matters.” The piece opened with Haislip playing a violin. She wears a red dress as she plays. Senior Rand Pope, sits in a chair in front of her taking notes on her performance. There’s a spark between the two. As soon as she finishes playing the violin, the two are torn apart and arrested. They struggle for the rest of the piece to reconnect with one another. Time and time again a group of dancers dressed in all gray block their path to one another. When they’re finally together again, it’s too good to be true - the girl is dead.
Like with the red dress in “Nothing Else Matters,” the costuming for every piece was unique. “Proud Mary” brought us dancers wearing Tina Turner’s signature fringe mini. Green outfits resembling seaweed surprised the crowd in “Under the Sea.” Aladdin and Jasmine took the stage for “A Friend Like Me.” A mixture of plaid and floral patterns transported the audience to the era of disco. Unfortunately, “It’s Raining Men” did not bring umbrellas or a storm of men. The costumes helped bring the songs to life, and in turn, the dancers brought the costumes to life.
The costumes like the overall performance would not have been a success without the countless hours of rehearsal time. The dancers began learning numbers back in August. It began with one or two numbers a month, and then as the event date grew closer, the number of dances increased exponentially. The week before the event, members were together daily running through pieces and working with a professional technical crew. It would take up to an hour for each piece to get the lighting worked out. “We could’ve performed in here, and it would’ve been nothing, but in there with the stage, lights and costumes, it brings it all to life,” says Haislip while standing in the rehearsal area.
The hard work and commitment from the Ballroom Performance Group paid off. By the time the last number arrived, the audience did not want the show to come to a close. As a way to ease the audience into the fact the show was now over, dancers invited audience members onto the stage for one last magical number. With all the events happening at UGA throughout the year, Ballroom Magic is not one to be missed. There’s a dance number for everyone.