The glitz and glam of Gambier’s best dancers were on display last Friday night at Kenyon Ballroom Dance Club’s annual Dancing with the Kenyon Stars.
The event, in its eighth year, kicked off at 8 p.m. in Rosse Hall. Modeled after the reality TV show Dancing with the Stars, the competition paired members of the Ballroom Dance Club with various members of the faculty and administration to choreograph and perform a dance. The students then spent months coaching their staff partners, preparing them for their moment in the limelight.
Four judges evaluated the dances: Professor of Dance Balinda Craig-Quijada, Dean of Academic Advising Thomas Hawks, Professor of Psychology Irene López and Director of Green Initiatives Dave Heithaus — but the crowd determined the grand prize winner. Upon entering the auditorium, audience members were offered two-dollar ballots that were collected at the end of the evening. For the past seven years, all proceeds have gone to the Knox County Winter Sanctuary, a local emergency homeless shelter. Whoever received the most votes took home the glittering disco ball trophy.
Contestants sometimes played out small scenes in their routines: a couple at odds arguing with samba slides, old friends reunited in the dip of western swing and a Star Wars battle set to a Paso Doble, a Spanish modern dance. In between performances, longtime host, Professor of Music Ben “Doc” Locke cracked jokes about Facebook friends he shared with the contestants and the judges. When all the votes had been tallied, Assistant Director of Admissions Guy Hatch and Nyota Mbuyu ’20 whisked away the prize.
Emily Ward ’19 and Juliana Delsante ’20, co-presidents of the Kenyon Ballroom Dance Club and organizers of the event, said that this year’s competitors broke with previous competitions. The majority of student performers were underclass students, and, for the first time ever, Kenyon staff and faculty couples competed against each other. The gender representation also shifted this year, with more men participating than ever.
Visiting Instructor of Spanish Agne Karosaite, who danced with Oliver VandenBerg ’20, described him as “a physicist, a mathematician and a musician combined to make the perfect dance partner. [VandenBerg will] explain why your spins go wrong and back it up with science. He’ll count the steps and put them into a spreadsheet. He’ll even measure the tempo of the song to make sure it’s not too fast.”
Dancing with the Kenyon Stars embodied the liberal arts experience, as students and staff used their eclectic knowledge of both statistics and swing to create a night of dazzling dance moves. In total, attendees raised $692.32 to maintain Kenyon arts connections between Gambier and Knox County.