Stepping to an old-fashioned beat

Sporting T-shirts that say, “We do it quick, quick, slow,” the ballroom dance team walks – or maybe waltzes – to its own beat.

For the past 15 years, the team has trained students in various types of ballroom dances to compete at the local and national level.

After being dragged to a practice two years ago, junior Alex Pazuchanics, now the captain of GW’s ballroom team, said he was immediately hooked.

“Once you get knee deep in it, you want to learn everything,” Pazuchanics said.

Three times a week, the team meets in the Lerner Health and Wellness Center to practice the tango, foxtrot, quickstep, salsa, hustle and other dances.

At practices, men and women line up at opposite ends of the room, pair up to practice footwork for a few minutes and then switch partners.

“It’s at first awkward dancing with someone you never met, but you get used to it,” said freshman Liz Hathaway. “You need to be really close and that comes with time.”

Like many on the team, Hathaway is what veteran members call a dancing “newbie.” Once a week, the team receives lessons from a professional instructor who has been dancing for 20 years.

Ballroom team alumni maintain an active role by helping teach lessons and cheering on the team at competitions.

Kim Vu and Caitie Craumer, who both graduated from GW in 2009, joined the ballroom dancing team as freshmen. They learned from alumni, and now they are returning the favor by acting as coaches for the team.

“One of the best ways to learn is to teach,” Craumer said. “I think it benefits both the students and the teacher in any situation. If I can pass on what I know to someone, that’s great.”

In less than two months, newcomers are ready to take part in local collegiate ballroom competitions, facing rivals Georgetown and the University of Maryland.

On Oct. 23, the team is hosting a mock competition on campus as practice for new ballroom team members.

More experienced team members participate in national competitions in cities like New York City, Boston and Philadelphia. This year, the national collegiate competition will be held in Baltimore.

“The competitions are nothing you ever expected,” Pazuchanics said. “Getting on the competition floor is really incredible the first time. There are a lot of people on the floor and we get to show off our individual skills.”

As a freshman, Hathaway said she appreciates the opportunity to meet new people through ballroom.

“I’m glad I joined the team because not only am I learning a new skill, but I’m also meeting people I never would have met,” Hathaway said.

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