Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Libby Tolman ’15

Norwich, Vermont • Physics View Profile

Ballroom Dancing

It takes two to tango

A few days per week, I set down my problem sets and head to Dillon Gym for ballroom lesson or practice. I started ballroom my very first semester at Princeton, mainly because I once took an Argentine tango lesson before coming to Princeton, and was surprised at how fun it was. I'm not a naturally graceful person, so I expected to struggle fruitlessly, but I got the hang of the steps, and once I did, found that dancing could be easy and fun.

A line of ballroom dancers
Dancers wait to perform at Princeton's most recent competition

Ballroom at Princeton was indeed fun, but more challenging than I expected. It also turned out that the tango the ballroom team danced was very different from the dance I'd experienced previously. The ballroom team dances international style, a set of 10 dances (waltz, tango, Viennese waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, samba, cha-cha, rumba, paso doble, and jive) that was developed in Britain during the early 20th century. When someone talks about "Argentine tango," they're usually referring to an elegant, sensual dance with a lot of connection and cooperation between the man and the woman. The international tango is rougher, and more evocative of a battle between the man and the woman. It seems to retain the ideas of bravery and fighting that characterize Argentine tangos, while lacking their sense of nostalgia and sentimentality.

Two dancers
Me dancing with Brian

"Rough" and "battle-like" should not, however, in any way describe my relationship with my ballroom partner. Like most members of the ballroom team, I dance and practice primarily with one male team member. After going through many partners freshman year, I found Brian sophomore year. He is a chemistry major one year below me, and we've been dancing together since.

Some dancers say that one's relationship with a partner is harder than a romantic relationship, because the partnership encounters the same issues of coordinating schedules and working together, while lacking any mitigating love or attraction. I'm not sure if that's true, though, because Brian and I have managed to mostly avoid conflicts, and the friendship I've developed with him, as well as with the other ballroom members, is one of my favorite parts of dancing with the team.

A group of people
The team after lesson