By Elana Spivack
Few college students have the opportunity to see their professors and the school’s president, gallivant around on stage for charity. On Friday, Dec. 5, the Kenyon College Ballroom Dance Club held its fourth-annual Dancing with the Kenyon Stars (DWTKS) charity event, with all proceeds going to the Winter Sanctuary Homeless Shelter in Mount Vernon.
The competition, hosted for the fourth time by the ever-popular music professor Ben Locke, featured six teams, each consisting of one ballroom dancer and one faculty member, as well as group showcases by the Ballroom Dance Club and the Dance Team. On the competition’s panel of judges sat Jewish Chaplain and Hillel Director Marc Bragin, Assistant Director of New Student Orientation Lacey Filkins, Associate Professor of English Ivonne Garcia and Lead Instructor in Biology and last year’s DWTKS winner Jennifer Smith.
This year had particular appeal because one of the contestants was Kenyon’s own president, Sean Decatur, who partnered with Johanna Klinman ’15 for a whimsical foxtrot performance. Even better, he competed against his wife, Renee Romano, affiliated scholar in history, who danced a spicy tango routine with Marc Ferraro ’17.
“I got an email,” Ballroom President and DWTKS coordinator Meaghan Brennan ’15 said. “I’m pretty sure the subject line, from our advisor Pamela Faust, was, ‘The president is in because his wife told him to.’” She went on to describe how difficult it can be to find faculty willing to participate because the event is an enormous time commitment. Brennan began pulling things together at the end of the summer, and rehearsals with contestants began at the end of September.
It can also be challenging to find professors willing to learn and then perform something as difficult and highly technical as ballroom dance. “You kind of agree to do it and you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into until you start, and it’s hard and it’s things that you’ve never done before,” according Erin O’Neill, head softball coach and waltz partner to Luke Kresslein ’15. “If you would’ve told me two months ago that this would be it, I wouldn’t have believed you that I would be performing tonight.”
The months of practice inevitably foster a relationship between student dancers and their partners. Chemistry professor Sheryl Hemkin, Alex Ritter-Jenkins’ ’17 cha-cha partner, mentioned her favorite part of the process has been getting to know her fellow dancer. “He’s been really kind and good about helping me figure things out,” she said. Likewise, O’Neill admired how Kresslein handled their practices. “I just don’t want to embarrass him. Luke has been very patient but stern, like, ‘This is how we’re gonna do it,’ and staying on task. It’s been very rewarding.”
Jive-couple and contest champions Lee Schott, assistant director of career development, and Ali Pratt ’17 were reportedly “super psyched” at having won.
Decatur, though he said he would much rather be in a chemistry class than perform foxtrot in front of his school, said he soaked up the good energy of the evening and enjoyed the adventure. “One of the things I just really love about being at a college is the opportunity to learn new stuff even if learning new stuff is things that are really hard.”