On Saturday, April 15, the Student Recreation Center was host to Dancesport at UCR’s annual Orange Blossom Ball, an amateur ballroom and Latin dance competition that exhibits talent from schools such as Arizona State University (ASU), USC, UCLA and of course, UCR, among others from across the country. I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t feel the passion enforced by the many amazing dancers that swung to the rhythm of the music as they cha-cha’d real smooth.
But upon entering the SRC basketball court, a host of tables occupied the rightmost side of the auditorium, reserved for the variety of dancers. On the left, the bleachers were home to a bevy of spectators—ranging from close friends and relatives of the performers, aside for the few dancers resting until their next callback. And at the heart of the gymnasium were the talented competitors as they frisked and froliced all over the dance floor, captivating their audience with the sensual moves of the Rumba and exciting the crowd with their lively cha-chas.
For an all-day event, the Orange Blossom Ball payed tribute to all types of dances in the categories of American Smooth, American Rhythm, International Standard and International Latin. I managed to catch the latter category which consisted of dances such as jive, cha-cha-cha, Rumba, samba and Paso Doble.
The process of the competition starts in rounds. One wave of competitors takes the dance floor as the host calls out the genre of dance they will be competing in and the level of proficiency as well. For example, one round of dance was the “Bronze Jive,” so only those who fit in the Bronze proficiency, that is, the “easiest” level, may dance in the round. As the competition goes on, the announcer calls other types of dances and other proficiency levels as well (such as silver and gold).
I caught up with the treasurer of Dancesport at UCR, second-year linguistics major Jazmin Maria Gomez, to talk about the event and how the club is perceived on campus. This year marks the 14th time Dancesport at UCR has hosted their annual Orange Blossom Ball, but what’s surprising is that the club itself was established the same year their first Orange Blossom Ball took place. Though, it took quite a while for UCR to gain a reputation amongst other schools for the annual dance competition.
“When it comes to a competition like this, we reach out to schools and they start signing (up),” says Gomez. “There’s some from California, ASU, Vegas and a whole bunch of other competitors.”
The event has even garnered the attention of some noteworthy performers as well. “We have the championships that come and perform some time,” says Gomez. “This time we have Latin and rhythm (dancers) and I believe they’re from Russia, so they’ll be performing today as well.” The couple in question is the duo of Evgeny Likhachev and Maria Levina, professional dancers who have competed nationwide and across the world.
As the competition went on, it was fascinating to observe the reactions of the (extremely) passionate audience. On the bleachers, close friends and relatives were dead-focused on recording certain competitors’ performances. “Oh my God Ariana, yes Ariana!” screamed a girl from the other side of the gymnasium, cheering on their friend as she danced her heart away in the ballroom. By the entrance, a competitor from the other side of the room saw his family standing there, and as he approached them his mother gave him a passionate hug, which frankly looked like it almost suffocated him.
What I learned at the Orange Blossom Ball is that these people — these talented performers — do what they do out of love and passion for the art of dance. Dancesport at UCR becomes the sole platform for these people to express that passion and without it the Orange Blossom Ball wouldn’t exist. “The school is not very notified of Dancesport at UCR,” says Gomez, “they don’t know what we do.” She continues, “When we go to other schools, the whole school is there cheering on their college and right here it’s not that well advertised. Check us out and if you’re interested come and join the club, you’re more than welcomed to.”
With many dancers gathered at the SRC to compete, it’s hard to believe Dancesport at UCR isn’t getting more attention. “Our ultimate goal is to not let anyone behind,” states Gomez. The event, with little hiccups and (actually) ahead of schedule, proves that the club handles their annual Orange Blossom Ball with finesse, and leaves no one behind on the dance floor.