Getting to know new people — something most Kenyon students are all too familiar with — while trying not to step on their feet certainly shakes things up.
Kenyon College Ballroom Dance Club (KCBDC) began hosting its annual ‘Newbie Nights’ on Sept. 11 in Lowry Center 237, offering beginner-level lessons in a variety of ballroom dances, including cha cha, foxtrot, swing, salsa and many more.
After a brief warm-up in the brightly lit studio, attendees can choose to be a ‘lead’ or a ‘follow.’ The participants are then divided into two groups, and each group learns their part separately with the guidance of the club’s instructors, before joining hands in pairs. Partners can start counting and trying out the steps together, tentatively at first before getting into the dancing groove. Then the rhythmic music starts, and everyone gets swinging.
“No experience, dancing shoes or partner necessary!” KCBDC wrote in an email to Kenyon students — an invitation for all to come experience what is uncharted territory for some and familiar ground for others.
“I’d say that… probably the most difficult part of teaching lessons is trying to keep the ones that are ready to move on happy and entertained, but also keeping the ones that aren’t necessarily as ready to move on still engaged, [making sure that] they’re still having fun and feeling like they’re learning something,” Ella Salvino ’26, dance instructor and the club’s social media coordinator, said.
As the music soars and the pairs switch, the room evolves into a lively spectacle. Attendees can converse with one another and learn what brought their partner to Newbie Nights. Most participants are completely new to dance and simply looking to branch out: “I have never ballroom danced before. … Any kind of dance, actually. So I was very curious about what it entails, and it looks like a lot of fun,” Calista Pearlstone ’27 said.
Attendees can also find themselves paired up with a seasoned dancer , but this proved to be no cause for concern for the first-timers. “Regardless of whether the person you’re dancing with has been dancing for a while, or if they’re at the Newbie Nights because they’re also new, you are both learning together and helping each other out,” Pearlstone said. Another pair switch, and the new partner might be a former dancer who is looking to get back into dancing. There are also people who came with a more particular reason in mind: “I’m writing a game that features a dance scene, and I want to get some perspective,” Kay Sitrin ’26 shared.
Even if you aren’t the talkative type, you can still enjoy the wordless communication between dance partners — a careful hand drop signaling a spin, a gentle hand pull cueing a change in movement direction. Ballroom dancing is as much about the dynamic between two partners as it is about techniques.
When asked about her favorite part of Newbie Nights, Salvino responded, “Everyone’s smiling when they’re dancing. It’s just such a happy thing. And honestly, I feel like at least for me I can forget about schoolwork or anything going on outside of the ballroom. … It’s just like a very easy place to come and just have fun and not think for an hour.”
For anyone wishing to get involved, KCBDC is hosting more Newbie Nights this week starting from Sept. 18, offering a samba lesson on Monday, waltz on Tuesday and rumba on Wednesday.
Features Editor Sacha Franjola ’26 is the competition coordinator for KCBDC.