Ballroom at Maryland kicks off competition with pajama party

 

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Dancers in pajamas twirl across Stamp’s Grand Ballroom Friday night at the Ballroom at Maryland Pajama Jam.

By Lynsey Jeffery

Elegant flashes of color twirled and dipped across the stage. Glossy heels stomped and spun, intertwining with black jazz slippers, then pulling away again. 

The ballroom dancers in Stamp Student Union’s Grand Ballroom Friday evening were the picture of grace — even while wearing pajamas.

Ballroom at Maryland (BAM), a social and competitive ballroom dance team on campus, hosted its major spring competition, BAM Jam, April 22. Dancers from different schools come together during this event to compete in various styles of ballroom dance.

The night before BAM Jam, it is tradition for BAM to hold an evening social called the Pajama Jam. Dancers from visiting schools, BAM members and anyone else interested in ballroom is invited to dance for fun in Stamp’s Grand Ballroom. The dress code? Pajamas, of course.

The competition has been held for more than 10 years.

“We try to always have a social,” said BAM’s vice president special, freshman psychology major Hannah Fresquez. “It’s a nice way for everyone to meet each other first.”

There was a sense of excitement and nervousness the night before the competition, as some dance partners had fun on the floor, while others drilled their routines in the hallway.

BAM Jam, which was held from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, is a unique competition, designed to welcome newcomers to competitive ballroom dancing. While most ballroom competitions can last an entire weekend, BAM’s event lasts 12 hours.

There are normally four levels for dancers to compete in: newcomer, bronze, silver and gold. The ability of the dancers and what they’re allowed to perform rises in difficulty from newcomer to gold.

The newcomer category is designed for dancers who began ballroom dancing less than a year before the competition. BAM Jam has two newcomer categories to give new dancers more options and experience.

“The point of [BAM Jam] is that it’s a short, but very newcomer-friendly competition,” Fresquez said.

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Attendees danced to many different kinds of music, including Apache (Jump on It).

The usual turnout for the competition is about 200 dancers from various schools, including about 70 BAM members, according to Public Relations Coordinator and Maryland Alumni Association member Stephanie Tompkins. This year, BAM Jam had 300 participants, still with only about 70 from BAM.

Tompkins chalks up the increase in attendance to an increased presence on social media.

“I think being so active on social media is what made BAM Jam so much bigger this year,” Tompkins said. “We’ve got 100 more than our biggest recorded year this year.”

Tompkins said there were five new schools in attendance that had never come to BAM Jam before, and participating schools reached all the way to Tennessee.

During the majority of Pajama Jam, dancers were free to dance on the floor in any style, with any partner. But the event also featured “fun dances,” designed to create a stress-free atmosphere.

Fun dances are new twists on old classics, like the straight-legged cha-cha and the back-to-back standard. Dancers attempt to do traditional ballroom styles with serious limitations, like not being able to bend their legs or having to stand back to back.

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Dancers prepared for the first “fun dance,” the straight-legged cha-cha.

More than just calming nerves, the Pajama Jam gave dancers a chance to become familiar with the performance space and rehearse one last time before the competition.

“This is kind of a practice round for competition tomorrow, and also you’re having a lot of fun,” BAM member and graduate student Mukul Agrawal said. “And if you have fun just before competing, you’re more probable to win.”

Agrawal said learning to compete in ballroom competitions has made it easier to perform well in nerve-wracking situations like test taking.

“It’s a boost in confidence,”  Agrawal said.

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