The Crimson White

Ballroom dancing team competes in nationals

Alexandra Ellsworth

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When Maci Arms took a social dance class through the kinesiology department, she had no idea where it would lead. Two years later, Arms just won the Argentine Tango competition with her partner, Jeremy Peters.

Arms and Peters competed in The University of Alabama’s second ballroom dance competition Saturday. Last year, the University hosted its first event, competing against Mississippi State. This year, five schools competed: Alabama, MSU, Ole Miss, Itawamba Community College and UAB.

“[Last year] it was a completely new idea to me,” said Arms, a senior majoring in dance. “I didn’t realize this was something we would be able to do. Then Rita told me that they had friends doing the same thing at schools all over the country.”

(See also “Local group provides free dancing lessons for students“)

Rita Snyder, a professor in the dance department, is the faculty advisor for the ballroom competition team. She and her husband Richard Richards have been ballroom dancing for six or seven years now. About four years ago, they began competing.

“We got too old to do ballet anymore,” Snyder said. “When you get to be 40 years old, you have to quit wearing pointe shoes and doing lifts. So we started ballroom dancing, and we are so happy we did.”

Snyder and Richards recently went to Nationals for the USA Dance 2014 National DanceSport Championships in Baltimore, Md. Snyder encourages students to dance, because it’s something she said she feels they can take with them after they graduate.

“You can do it till you can’t walk anymore,” she said. “It’s good exercise. It’s good for the brain. It’s good socially; you will meet a lot of different people. It’s excellent, and everyone should do it. It’s more fun than going to the gym.”

Snyder and Richards run practice sessions late Saturday mornings for anyone who wants to work on technique, but Snyder said students also get together on their own to work on their routines. There were 10 dance categories at Saturday’s event: waltz, tango, fox trot, cha cha, rumba, salsa, Argentine tango, east coast swing, west coast swing and the hustle.

(See also “Diverse students come together to dine, dance at ‘Club Lakeside’“)

Although there is a ballroom dancing club on campus, Crimson Tide Ballroom Dancers, this will be the first competitive team at the University. Both Snyder and Arms, who are presidents of the team, said they are hoping to see interest grow next year.

“I’m hoping it will become another staple of the University,” Arms said. “It’s definitely something you will take with you for the rest of your life. You may use it for your wedding day or at parties in the future.”

The team has students who are involved in both Dance Alabama! and Crimson Tide Ballroom Dancers, but it is not affiliated with either group.

Bobby McClure, a freshman majoring in dance, is a part of Dance Alabama! and joined the team this year. He also took social dance with Snyder and Richards and decided to join the team afterward.

“I’ve always liked swing, and through that I started to really enjoy ballroom as well,” McClure said. “This semester I took social dance, and found it pretty easy to pick up because of my background in dance. Our teachers opened it up for the class to join, and I decided to do it.”

McCluresaid competing gave him a goal to work toward, which he found really helpful. But the competition is about having fun, he said.

“It’s a competition and we are working hard to win, but at the same time we want to have fun and just enjoy it,” he said. “I am really looking forward to next year as well.”

Although she is set to graduate in May, Arms said she still has high hopes for the team in the future.

“I want to continue to see it grow,” Arms said. “When Rita and I started this, we had a vision for not only hosting competition but also traveling to other schools. We want to start another legacy at this school. We might not be a sports team, but we want to be another tradition at this University where people come to associate this school with great dancing.”

No previous dance experience is required to join. Anyone interested in the team can contact Rita Snyder at, or visit the Facebook page: UA Collegiate Ballroom Competition Team.

(See also “Dance Alabama! to feature student choreography“)

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Ballroom dancing team competes in nationals