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Life > Experiences

5 Life Lessons Through the Lens of a Newbie Ballroom Dancer

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

Last semester, after stumbling upon a cha-cha social organized by the UMass Amherst Ballroom Dance Team, I fell in love with ballroom dancing. I tried out the following week, desperately trying to keep my expectations low for fear of failure, and made it onto the team — which made me feel sparkly for days later. Though the music and liveliness drew me in initially, over the course of the semester, I learned that ballroom dancing is much more than just, well, dancing. Now, as a newly-bronze member of the team, I have condensed my observations into five life lessons that ballroom dance has taught me.

Dancing is Just as Much a Social Activity as it is a Sport

By definition, ballroom dance is a “set of partner dances,” which means that you need a partner to dance. This requires introductions, conversations, and many hours spent together and is the innermost ring of “sociality.” Already, this makes ballroom dancing a team sport. Next is the wider team — your school, your dance studio, etc. These are the people you rely on for coaching, moral support, and last-minute costume adjustments when you’re scared you’re accidentally going to flash somebody. They make up the second ring. Finally, there’s the public; whether that’s your family and friends, other dancers, judges, or the broader public, for those who compete on television. They are the outermost ring. From the very creation of a dance routine to its performance, other people are involved every step of the way, making it just as much a social activity as a sport.

Be Willing to Embarrass Yourself

Accidentally stepping on your partner’s foot is embarrassing! Losing the beat is embarrassing! Watching yourself on video later, wondering why your arm is flailing around like that is embarrassing! But should any of these things stop you from dancing? NO! There are many moments in the realm of ballroom dancing that encourage you to put yourself out there and to take things lightly if they don’t exactly go your way. This humbleness, this ability to let go of your ego, helps in every aspect of life.

Discipline is Key

Though we often hear about how disciplined dancers are, I never truly understood that statement until I went to my first ballroom dance competition. I thought I had gotten there early when I showed up at 6:20 a.m., but already, makeup palettes were spread out and buns were slicked back. Later, a huge timetable was projected onto the screen, detailing exactly which pairs were competing in what dance and in what sequence. In between Standard and Latin styles, long, full dresses were swapped for shorter, sassier ones, and closed-toed shoes were replaced with strappy, open-toed ones. Everyone moves in tune with each other. Even if you don’t know exactly how it works, like past me, you’ll quickly pick it up.

Cute Shoes Make Alllll the Difference

Okay, hear me out. When I first joined the team, I practiced in my sneakers, unsure of which shoes to purchase. Though I loved the dances I was learning, I felt like there was something missing, something that prevented me from fully embodying this Dancing with the Stars persona I had created for myself. Then, it hit me — I wasn’t wearing the proper shoes. It’s crazy how a 2.2-inch heel could change so much. Basically, my takeaway was this: if you do something, do it with all your heart. Do it all the way. Buy the cute shoes.

Dancing Your Troubles Away Really Works!

Finally, to quote Chandler Bing, dancing your troubles away really works! Dancing is good for your mental, physical, and emotional health, and is the perfect diversion in times of high stress. Even if you’re not part of a dance team, or think you can’t dance, dance anyway. Dance every day. Dance always.

To ballroom dance, thank you for being the most fun teacher I’ve ever had. 

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Andrea Tchesnovsky

U Mass Amherst '25

Andrea Tchesnovsky is a junior Comparative Literature major at UMass Amherst. Born in Bulgaria, she is fluent in four languages and is currently learning Italian as her fifth. Other than writing, Andrea’s interests include fashion, photography, reading contemporary novels, yoga, and traveling!