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Black and White Ball Brings the Claremont Community Together to Celebrate Ballroom Dance

The 2011 Black and White Ball

The 2011 Black and White Ball

Each winter, Edmunds Ballroom is transformed into a site of elegant artistry as the Claremont Colleges Ballroom Dance Company welcomes students, faculty, staff and the community for an evening of ballroom dance.

The Black and White Ball, a tradition since 2007, features performances, lessons, and open dancing. A favorite portion of the evening is “Dancing With the Claremont Stars,” which features Claremont Colleges’ faculty, staff and administrators competing for trophies in the waltz and cha cha categories. This year, the festivities will take place on Saturday, Dec. 8, from 6 p.m. through midnight.

More than 100 dancers make up the 5C dance company (CCBDC), which continually ranks as one of the top collegiate ballroom dance groups in the nation. The students came to competitive ballroom dancing through a myriad of ways, some unexpectedly.

Samuel Young ’15, CCBDC treasurer, had taken “a few brief, not particularly informative” ballroom dancing classes in high school, but his leap to competitive dancing was somewhat unplanned. “At the beginning of freshman year, I heard there was a beginners social dance class, so I went to class, auditioned for CCBDC on a whim, and have been dancing since then,” he said. That whim converted to a passion. One and a half years later, Young practices 30-35 hours per week. “I enjoy the act of dancing and I also enjoy the difficulty that I experience in taking up a new skill.”

Catherine Wright ’14, who is on the elite tour team and also a campus team coach, had considerable dancing chops before coming to college. She had been dancing since she was five years old in ballet, jazz, tap, modern and lyrical styles. But ballroom dancing was new. And what she loves is the pageantry. “Everything about ballroom and Latin dance is over the top—the costumes, the make-up, the styling, the emotion,” she says.

CCBDC also offers community. “I love being part of a diverse, accepting community and getting to know people I would probably not have met from other colleges. It's wonderful that all of us share a passion for dance and CCBDC gives us a platform to express ourselves artistically in various ways,” says Yenli Wong ’15.

There are varied experiences throughout the dance company, says Paul Roach ’07, director of CCBDC and adjunct Pomona faculty.

“As a community we are incredibly diverse, from the places we start dancing, to the reasons we continue dancing, to the moments we fall in love with dancing,” says Roach, who himself started ballroom dancing while at Pomona. “We have different majors, family backgrounds, and personality types and styles, yet we all come together to dance and to celebrate community. It gives us a place to express who we are, and how we feel in one of the most supportive and positive communities I have found anywhere.”

Andrea Engler Morseburg, one of Pomona’s regional directors for advancement, is a staff competitor in Saturday’s Black and White Ball’s Dancing with the Claremont Stars’ cha cha category. Morseburg competed in the waltz category in 2007 when she worked at CMC, an experience she deems “life-changing.” She started as an intermediate dancer and knew how to do the waltz since the age of 16, but says, “While I thought I could dance back then, I’ve learned so much more. I also learned about myself that while I’m very self-confident, performing something that you’re not entirely comfortable doing is an entirely different story.” Morseburg has been practicing for six weeks and says, “I’ll be suitably nervous but I won’t be like I was five years ago. I could barely speak.”

The Black and White Ball is “going to be over the top elegant,” says Morseburg. “It’s festive, it’s exciting, it’s fun, it brings the community to Pomona. It’s a community-building event, and I think that’s so important.”

The Black and White Ball will be held at Edmunds Ballroom (Smith Campus Center, 170 E. Sixth St., Claremont), There is no cost of attendance from 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m. After 8:30 p.m., tickets are $2 for students; $10 for faculty and staff; and $15 for general admission.  Business attire is required (no jeans) and formal attire is suggested.

The schedule of the evening is as follows:

  • 6 - 7 p.m. — Hors d'oeuvres
  • 7 - 8:30 p.m. — Dancing With the Claremont Stars and Claremont Colleges Ballroom Dance Company performances
  • 8:30 - 9:30 p.m. — Social Foxtrot lesson
  • 9:30 p.m - 12 a.m. — Open dancing

The CCBDC is a Pomona College Student Affairs/Smith Campus Center program. For more information, contact leadership@claremontballroom.org or visit www.claremontballroom.org, which also includes a list of Claremont "stars" competing Saturday. Visit the CCBDC on Facebook for photos of CCBDC event announcements and photos from past events.