Students dazzle in Dancing with the Stars

Partners Eric Lee and Tiffany Tse dance the cha-cha. (credit: Maryyann Landlord/) Partners Eric Lee and Tiffany Tse dance the cha-cha. (credit: Maryyann Landlord/) Gisell Pardo and Prin Oungpasuk take the stage with a second rendition of the cha-cha. (credit: Maryyann Landlord/) Gisell Pardo and Prin Oungpasuk take the stage with a second rendition of the cha-cha. (credit: Maryyann Landlord/)

Inspired by the hit reality TV show Dancing with the Stars, “stars” from Greek life and various clubs on campus took to the ballroom dance floor with members of the Ballroom Dance Club. These competed for the mirror ball trophy and money for their philanthropies in the first annual Dancing with the Stars: CMU Edition, hosted by junior voice major Taylor Rawley. Junior business administration and statistics double major Nancy Yue, the Ballroom Dance Club events coordinator, organized the competition.

The stars were paired up with their partners just two weeks ago, making for a quick, hectic turnaround from complete strangers to performing couples. On Saturday night, Rangos Hall was full of friends and fans eager to see these stars show off their newfound dancing skills. The event began with a quick video montage of each couple introducing themselves and their dance before the first couples took the stage.

Dancers wowed the audience with fierce tangos, quick jives, romantic waltzes, and saucy sambos, dancing to impress with tricky lifts, captivating spins, and lightning-quick footwork.

On the other side of the competition, the judges were an entertaining and dynamic panel. The panel was composed of former professional ballroom dance competitor and teacher Christine Zona, former ballroom dancer Geoffrey Morgan, junior civil and environmental engineering major Michelle Couste, and computer science professor David Kosbie.

Though surprisingly insightful about the dances, the judges were also full of bad jokes, charm, and sincere compliments that kept the mood light throughout the evening. Following each dance, they gave their feedback — holistic if often humorous commentaries on lines, posture, energy, storytelling, and footwork. The audience was impressed by each dance and showed enthusiasm with loud cheering, but the judges went deeper.

Opening the show, junior computer science major Eric Lee and sophomore decision science major Tiffany Tse displayed strong technique with their cha-cha, but the dancers were critiqued for hesitating in their movements and for energy that “wasn’t entirely there.” Junior decision science major Hannah Wirt and first-year computer science major Marcus Todd amped up the energy with an impressive swing number that got both the crowd and the judges excited, though both Morgan and Zona made comments on the lack of real swing dancing in the piece. Junior mechanical engineering major Katie Sharkey and junior biology major Yimeng Xu changed the mood with an elegant Viennese waltz of romantic and simple grace, before senior English major Hannah Polack and senior electrical and computer engineering major Victor Wang switched things up again with a samba that was provocative and exciting, although the judges noted it lacked some technique.

In many cases, judges commented on the relationship between the dancers on stage, with either praise for seeming genuine or criticism for feeling forced and awkward. More than simply whether feet were pointed or not, the judges also discussed artistic elements such as the dancers’ ability to communicate a story and interpret the movements in a personal way.

Although light hearted, the judges’ feedback treated the dancers as if they were professionals. Keeping in mind that the dancers had just learned the dances within the couple of weeks, Kosbie commented, “I wish I could see this dance in a few weeks, but I think I’m going to be saying that a lot.”

As the evening progressed, the number of quirky tangents increased, with references to bad Pittsburgh drivers, the speed of burning salsa, and two of whether Carnegie Mellon can cure dementia purely through ballroom dancing.

Toward the end of the event, Zona made sure to compliment the entire group: “I think that in the two weeks everybody did a wonderful job — students and the Ballroom Dance Club that put together the routines.”

The winner was determined in part by a panel of judges and in part by the fans, who helped their favorite dancers win by liking photos on the Facebook page, buying tickets in dancers names and voting with their phones right after the show.

After all the dancers had performed, Rawley invited the audience to vote for their favorite dancers within the next five minutes online, and people quickly whipped out their smartphones to participate.

The grand prize went to junior communication design major Sam Ahmed — representing Delta Tau Delta — and his partner, senior psychology major Helen Chao, for their fast, furious, and seamlessly timed jive.

After the excitement of the results died down, the Ballroom Dance Club finished off the night with one last dance. In addition to presenting a stress-relieving, fun event, the night also raised over $800, half of which will be going to Delta Tau Delta’s philanthropy, the Children’s Institute. Certainly a tradition to continue in the future, Dancing with the Starts: CMU Edition was able to combine dance, service, community, and humor into an engaging evening.