by Elana Spivack
Ballroom dancing might conjure images of immaculately styled women in gowns and tuxedo-clad men. What one might not think of is the hours sweating over proper technique and the money saved for competitions. Brandy Arredondo ’14 and Bobby Kresslein ’15 understand these struggles. Arredondo and Kresslein are both alumni of the Kenyon College Ballroom Dance Team, and have continued to compete post-graduation.
Arredondo and Kresslein started ballroom dance as first years. Now, both live in the Washington, D.C. area, home to a thriving ballroom scene. Arredondo practices 15 to 20 hours per week with her partner, Tommy Wyderko, who works full-time as a software consultant and takes classes at night. Arredondo takes one lesson per week with her coaches, a husband-and -wife duo ranked 45th internationally in standard-style dancing, which includes waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, tango and Viennese waltz.
Kresslein practices with his partners, Elizabeth Hines and Elira Fifa, up to 36 hours per week. Hines attends the University of Maryland and Fifa is a nurse at Inova Fairfax Hospital. Kresslein takes three to four dance lessons per week from three coaches.
“I’m not dancing when I’m at work and when I’m asleep,” Kresslein said.
Arredondo competed in September 2014 in the U.S. National Pro-Am (Professional-Amateur) Competition with her coach. To her surprise and delight, she won. The high-caliber competition seemed intimidating. “Nationals was scary mainly because the people that I was competing against could afford five to 10 lessons a week,” Arredondo said. She could only afford one lesson weekly, and had to practice alone for five months.
Kresslein recently won his first competition, the Pennsylvania Ballroom Scrimmage on Oct. 4. He will compete in another five competitions this year: DCDI (D.C. DanceSport Inferno) at the University of Maryland, Star Ball in Columbus, the King’s Ball in New Jersey, the Yule Ball in D.C., and the Big Apple Dance Floor Competition in New York.
Outside ballroom, Arredondo works as a special-education paraprofessional at George Mason High School in Falls Church, Va., and recently began working as assistant swim coach for the school’s team. She also helps one woman prepare for retirement by organizing her finances.
Kresslein works at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. On weekends, he hosts social dances with single dancers, and teaches ballroom to adults inexperienced in dance.
Competitions are pricey, which can make pursuing ballroom professionally impractical. Arredondo pays more than $2,000 per competition, including entry fee, hotel, dress rental and more.
These expenses are off-putting to some ballroom competitors. Alex Ritter-Jenkins ’17 said that while ballroom is his passion, it would be impractical to pursue further. “It would be ridiculous to prioritize such an expensive interest at a time in my life when I don’t have very much money,” Ritter-Jenkins said.
For Arredondo and Kresslein, the beauty of dance far outweighs theburdens of competing. “I would be really pleased if this could be a part of my life for the rest of my life,” Kresslein said.