Ballroom club members try out new skills post-pandemic


Photo by IVE

Down the stairs from the Johnson Center food court and discretely tucked behind the WGMU studio, where beats drift out into an all but deserted hallway, is a small dance studio, complete with floor-to-ceiling mirrors. This is where Mason’s long-running Ballroom Club meets every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. to practice their routines.

The Ballroom Club offers a safe space for students willing to try something new to learn basic ballroom dance styles in a low-key, supportive environment.

Footwear varies, with people dancing in heels, flip-flops, sneakers and socked feet. Faculty advisor Dr. Mark Snyder, wearing heeled dance shoes, said that socks are often better than sneakers for ballroom dancing because of how sneakers grip the floor. Dance shoes are the best, but optional, he explained. 

“You don’t have to go out and buy them for the club, unless you’re just looking for an excuse that, ‘I have to go buy some dance shoes,’” Snyder said.

After checking each member’s green COVID health check screens, club president Audrey Burton announces that today the group will be starting to learn partnered dance. Dancing with a partner is optional, Burton emphasized. Everyone opted in.

Computer Science professor by day and dance instructor by late evening, Snyder takes the group of a dozen-odd students through basic movements from two styles of ballroom dance.

The meeting starts out with a review of the skills learned in previous meetings. The group practiced the basic steps solo, then partnered up, following Snyder’s count. Left foot forward, right foot forward, left foot forward to the side, right foot joins the left foot, repeat.

Freshman Geology major Alyssa Turner said this was her first time ballroom dancing, or doing any kind of dancing. 

“I was looking for events to do, because you need to do events to explore Mason … It was the most interesting thing,” she said.

A break was called after the first hour to sanitize hands and get a drink, and then the group moved into a more complex cha-cha style dance for the second half of the meeting.

Neither Burton nor Snyder can remember how long the Ballroom Dancing club has been at Mason. “Longer than I’ve been here,” said Snyder, who has been at Mason for 11 years. “Literally my first semester here I started helping the club,” he said. 

The group recently took a pause due to COVID-19, but Burton says membership levels have actually increased from pre-pandemic levels since starting up again. “I think it’s just the curiosity,” she said. “I think everyone just wants to jump back in and try new things.”

Who should join ballroom club? “Anyone!” Burton said. “It’s a social club, so you can just join, jump in, and I think all levels are really welcome.”