Social Dancing in Lubbock
By Amanda Ramirez
Photos by Christina Orozco and Cristian Valdez
Thursday night is often classified as “college night” in Lubbock. As classes and work assignments for the day end and the sun slowly sets, students search for their best attire to wear while containing excitement for the night ahead. Men polish their boots, and women curl their hair. A night at the local country nightclub, Wild West, is a regular pursuit for many students at Texas Tech University.
Social dancing has been common in young adults since the 18th century when country-dance and the minuet waltz were most popular. Dancing was well known as a positive social activity. Social dancing events brought a sense of communication to an era where communication was limited to only verbal speaking. Dancing was often performed at elaborate balls or small private parties amongst the wealthy. Throughout time in early America, the different cultures in social dancing became very acceptable. France brought the Minuet and England brought country. Each culture’s physical form of social dance was different, but somehow consistently was a median in bringing people together.
Social dancing can be found at many nightclubs in Lubbock. A favorite of many students at Texas Tech is the student-organized salsa nights. Two different Hispanic organizations, Unidos por un Mismo Idioma and Hispanic Student Society, hold salsa nights. On a planned date, usually a Friday, students are invited to bars or nightclubs, like the Conference Café and the Foundation Club, to engage in an evening of salsa dancing.
To explain salsa dancing to those unaware, it is hot and spicy! Salsa is full of twirls, dips and a whole lot of hips. When approaching a salsa night, be prepared to get sweaty. It may sound disgusting, but an accomplished salsa night does not come with a sweat-free body.
“Salsa nights are some of the best nights I’ve had as a student at Tech,” said Hispanic Student Society member Marie Zubiate, while flipping through her phone to show pictures of salsa nights. “There are so many foreign exchange students of Latin decent who don’t have many places to dance at. In the Hispanic culture, dancing is an important way to socialize and is often seen at all social events, yet when students from abroad, and even other cities in the United States come to a city like Lubbock where salsa dance is not the most popular form of dance they can feel out of place.” Zubiate said salsa nights are not just for those fluent in the Latin style dance. At 9 p.m., right before the event begins, the instructors give lessons in salsa dance to those interested. “Salsa is scary to learn at first, but once you understand the basic steps it’s easy to salsa with anyone,” laughed Zubiate.
A regular at Unidos por un Mismo Idioma’s salsa nights is Anna Chavarria. Chavarria has been an officer for two years, and is an active attendee of the organizations’ salsa nights. “I usually work at the front table collecting entrance fees,” Chavarria said. “An entrance fee is much more than collecting money; part of the money is given to a student in the organization as a scholarship. It’s a cool way to know that your money is not only going to your enjoyment for the night but to help out a kid’s education.” Chavarria said her involvement in Unidos por un Mismo Idioma was sparked through her attendance at salsa nights.
“There are so many students who miss out on all the fun that dancing in a nightlife atmosphere has due to fear and shyness,” Chavarria said. She says her boyfriend missed out on so many fun nights because he believed he was not a very good dancer. Dancing in a social environment is an easy way to make friends who enjoy having fun outside of the university, both Zubiate and Chavarria agreed.
Clubs where salsa nights are hosted are always changing. The most recent Unidos por un Mismo Idioma salsa night was at the Conference Café on Fourth street. “Flyers are always posted at every possible bulletin board and wall across campus so students can be aware of any dancing opportunities,” Chavarria said. The Unidos por un Mismo Idioma and Hispanic Student Society Facebook pages are always updated with any information on upcoming salsa nights.
Salsa dancing may feel like a foreign sport, but there are other clubs that exercise its use of social dancing. Clubs like the famous Wild West, a club set in a country-style environment. Bands play country music at the club to entice students and residents of Lubbock to attend the nightclub.
If one night belongs to a nightclub, Thursday nights do at Wild West. On Thursdays, the country/western club offers free entrance to students until 10 p.m. Wild West also has live shows on Thursday. The atmosphere of Wild West puts people in an instant country-mood. With “yeahs” and “woos” coming from the dance floor and the clanking of boots on the hard wood floors, it’s hard to resist the will to dance. Gunn has gone to the country-style club every Thursday for as long as she has been a student at Texas Tech. “It gives me something to look forward to after a hard week. I know all my friends will be there, and I know I will always have a good time,” Gunn said. “I don’t understand why more students don’t take hold of the opportunity to attend.”
Gunn said the music varies to attract a variety of people. “One second they’ll be playing Kenny Chesney, and the next Lil’ John is on the speakers,” Gunn said. “It keeps you on the dance floor constantly. Who doesn’t want to dance to popular music while everyone is shouting its lyrics? The atmosphere is too great to pass up.”
Nightlife scenery may not be the environment that everyone enjoys. In fact, a group on the Texas Tech campus recognized that issue and thus, began the Double T Ballroom Crew. The Double T Ballroom Crew is a group of students who get together every Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. to learn different ballroom styles, according to the organization’s Facebook page. The range expands from Foxtrot to Hustle to Paso Doble and Viennese Waltz. The president of this group, Adriana Elena Price, says the popularity of the group grows every year.
Price has been involved with the organization since she first began attending Texas Tech. “I was always interested in dance and wanted to become more knowledgeable,” Price said. “Dance is a great way to keep in shape and make friends, of course. Also, who wouldn’t want to impress their friends with their sweet cha-cha skills?”
The Double T Ballroom Crew organizes a weekly rehearsal on Sundays, in which a new style is taught. Ballroom instructor Josie Reed, the owner of the Lubbock ballroom studio For the Love of Dance, comes to teach eager students about ballroom. “At the end of each semester, the group is able to display what they have learned throughout the semester at a formal dance,” Price said. “It’s always nice to see a result to what you have worked hard on, and having this formal performance gives the group members a chance to do just that.”
A common misconception about ballroom dance lessons is that only women will be in attendance, but Price said that is not the case. “Every week we have many males participating,” Price said. “Dancing is a very masculine sport that requires a constant exertion of strength.” She claims not every man is cut out to be a dancer, but having the opportunity to test and strengthen their abilities and strengthen them is provided at the Double T Ballroom group.
Price says the Double T Ballroom can be thought of as a way to grow confident in one’s dancing abilities. “Students come to the weekly dance lessons to help their dance ability and to grow confidence in themselves as a dancer,” Price said. She thinks that the organization could be a great stepping-stone for those who want to do well in a nightlife, social dance atmosphere.
For those who enjoyed the experience of the Double T Ballroom Crew and would like to further their education of ballroom dance, the studio where instructor Josie Reed teaches is also available for lessons. According to the website, www.dvenueinc.com, the ‘For the Love of Dance’ studio is open when needed and is available for large and small group dance lessons. The price is $75 for three 50-minute long instruction sessions.
A learning experience that is focused on one type of dance specifically is found at the Robert H. Ewalt Recreation Center, which offers Raider X2 classes that are ballroom specific. Classes offered include Cha-Cha, Belly dance, Salsa, and Lyrical/Jazz dance. The classes are $15 a semester and are available to all Texas Tech students. Natalie Pulgini, an instructor at the Texas Tech Rec Center, says the classes are always very popular among students. “I know all of the instructors teaching those classes and the student’s response to the ballroom lessons are so positive,” Pulgini said. “As someone who loves dance myself, it’s so awesome to see a response that proves what a fun sport dance really is.”
Pulgini says the Rec Center has always tried to discourage judgment from being passed from student to student. “People vary in levels of athletic ability,” Pulgini said. “That’s why we have these classes, to get students learning about ways to exercise in an environment that feels safe and free of any negative attitudes, which is seen at some clubs around town.”
A social dance experience is a varying pastime that can be experienced in a nightclub, at on-campus organization, at the Student Rec Center, or through the Texas Tech Department of Theatre and Dance.
The Texas Tech Department of Dance consists of four professors teaching the elements of dance, choreography, pedagogy, history and more to their students. Assistant Professor Ali Duffy said dance is taken very seriously at Texas Tech and all students interested are invited to enroll in any level-one technique classes. “Level one technique courses are available to all students at Tech,” Duffy said.
Level-one courses include ballet, modern and jazz. Duffy said those courses are introductory with the technique and language of the dance style. If becoming part of the dance program at Texas Tech sounds appealing, program auditions are in February. To be a declared dance major or minor, audition and acceptance into the program is integral.
Students of the dance program, such as Wild West fan Gunn, said that the program has helped her gain confidence in social dance scenery. “I tend to be a bit on the shy side, but being able to perform and dance in front of my peers regularly helps me feel comfortable when I do go out dancing at clubs with my friends,” Gunn said.
Social dancing has and will continue to keep its popularity; from the 18th century to the 118th century, it will remain alive. People are quoted saying it, songs are written about it, and there are even TV shows displaying it. Dance is taking over the world! Just follow the Bee Gees advice because, “you should be dancing, yeah!”