Huskers twirl, dip into winter ballroom dancing showcase

· 5 min read

Huskers twirl, dip into winter ballroom dancing showcase

Ballroom Dance Company performance is Dec. 9
Grace Thomsen and Calen Bernbeck do a quick step dance with the rest of the gold group.
Craig Chandler | University Communication and Marketing
Grace Thomsen and Calen Bernbeck do a quick-step dance with the gold group.

Any casual observer who happened to follow the music in the Nebraska Union Dec. 7 may have wondered if they walked into a “Dancing with the Stars” rehearsal.

Quick footwork, body rolls and wide smiles took over the Ballroom, where students gathered for a run-through of 15 dance routines — both large group and duet performances — perfecting the steps and acing the dramatic flares.

As the music stopped after one group dance, Kim Marriner, teacher and choreographer for the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Ballroom Dance Company, smiled and offered one critique, “remember, you’re having fun!” Greeted by laughter, which inevitably washed away any remaining nerves for the dancers, Marriner clapped her hands and the dance kicked off again.

The ballroom dance routines will comprise the company’s winter showcase, “Classic Deluxe,” which will be presented twice, at 2 and 6 p.m., Dec. 9 in the Centennial Room of the Nebraska Union. The program runs about 90 minutes and will include traditional ballroom dance styles, from the waltz and tango to East Coast swing. Tickets are available at the door for $5 for students and $10 for community members.

Kevin Lievano closes his eyes as Cheyenne Bishop's hair twirls past him.
Craig Chandler | University Communication and Marketing
Kevin Lievano closes his eyes as Cheyenne Bishop's hair twirls past him. Following the rehearsal, Bishop promised Lievano she'd pull her hair up for the show.

The company has 70 students this year, said co-president Luke Stursma, a senior from Omaha. It is the largest group they’ve had in his three years with the company. Students are split into smaller groups, based on skill level, and spend at least two hours each week during the fall semester learning and practicing the routines for the winter showcase. The Dec. 7 practice was the first time the whole group experienced the entire show.

“It’s really fun to see how far they’ve come,” said Grace Thomsen, the primary programmer for the company. “When we have auditions and we get newcomers, a lot of them don’t have much previous dance experience — some none at all — and you can see their confidence has grown. This is a first public performance for a lot of them.”

Thomsen, a junior fashion merchandising major from Omaha, has a dance background. Though she is minoring in dance, she was excited to learn about the Ballroom Dance Company when she was a freshman.

“I had never tried ballroom dancing before,” she said.

Neither had Paige Myers, a junior chemistry major from Lincoln. Myers started ballet lessons as a 3-year-old and loved it. She auditioned for the company as a freshman.

“I love dance, and this is a great way to keep up with it,” she said.

This season, Myers is also serving as an understudy, which meant she committed to practicing four hours each week to learn the dances in two different groups, and she’ll feature in a duet.

Yajyoo Shrestha and Carlos Servan perform a duet.
Craig Chandler | University Communication and Marketing
Yajyoo Shrestha and Carlos Servan perform a duet.

The winter showcase has nine group performances, including one by the whole company, and six duets.

“For the most part, (duets) are essentially choreographed and practiced on their own,” said Stursma, an acting and English double-major.

Marriner choreographs and teaches each group dance. She makes herself available to help with the duets, but students have creative control over those routines. Marriner, who has previously competed in ballroom dance and taught private lessons for many years, is in her 15th year as teacher and choreographer of the company. A former colleague started the company in 2007, and asked Marriner to take over as coach in 2008.

“She was from Utah and followed her spouse to Lincoln when he went to law school. She started this wonderful thing here but she knew they were moving back, and she said ‘I don’t want it to die,’” Marriner said.

As a student herself at Nebraska in the 1990s, Marriner participated in the Ballroom Dance Club, which is a recreational dance club open to all without an audition. The company’s more experienced dancers lead it.

“When I first started as a choreographer, I was helping with the club, too, but the company kept growing,” she said. “It began with about 10 pairs of dancers, and each year it grew.”

Sam Anthony Pharris dips Arielle Monson.
Craig Chandler | University Communication and Marketing
Sam Anthony Pharris dips Arielle Monson.

Marriner said she’s stayed involved with the company because of the students.

“Honestly, I think they keep me young,” she said. “It’s exciting to teach young people. They’re excited to learn. Many come in without much experience — maybe they did show choir, or have some athleticism — but their brains are sponges and they want to have dance as an outlet.”

For Stursma, he is committed to the company because, “it’s the best group of people on campus.”

“I’ve made some of the best friends here,” he said. “It’s my favorite thing I’ve done.”

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