Amateur Competition in the Bay Area: An Interview with Bethany ShifflettInterview conducted by Robert Abrams
July 22, 1998
San Jose State University has an active ballroom dance program which has produced some stellar dancers. The competitions they have organized have been the entry point through which many local dancers, including myself, have traveled to expand their dance experience beyond social dancing. Since I thought that their comps are worth attending, I asked Dr. Bethany Shifflett, the SJSU Ballroom Club's faculty advisor, to grant an interview. The SJSU comps are also worth looking at as a model for what a dance club can accomplish.
When did the San Jose State University Ballroom Club start holding competitions?
Bethany: Fall 1996 with it's first Ballroom Classic. Two dance programs with both ballroom classes and club performances preceded this first comp.
Robert: How many people have participated in past competitions? Where do they come from?
Bethany: About 35 couples at the first comp and about 80 entries in the second. They come from SJSU, the Bay Area, and California universities - USC, Cal Poly Pomona, UCSD, UCSC, Monterey Peninsula College, Berkeley.
Robert: Whose idea was it to start these competitions?
Bethany: Actually, mine. I've tried to nurture a competitive element in the club. Started with trying to get a few to compete at the Comps Berkeley had for a couple of years. That 1st year I could only get people to go watch… sigh… But then the next year a handful competed and had a blast! Now we've had 2 comps of our own that SJSU folks thoroughly enjoy, and we have couples dancing at USABDA (United States Amateur Ballroom Dance Association) events, and this year The Sapphire Ball and IGB (The International Grand Ball).
Robert: What were the reasons to hold the competitions?
Bethany: Provide a FUN low stress event for students to focus dance goals on. When you have something you're aiming for progress is enhanced.
Robert: Have the competitions had an impact on the quality of dancing?
Bethany: Absolutely yes and the energy touches more and more folks as the semesters go by.
Robert: How has the format changed?
Bethany: Started just mainly American rhythm & smooth and has evolved to cover single and multi-dance events in American Smooth & Rhythm; International Standard & Latin and night club dance.
Robert: How have people reacted to participation in past competitions?
Bethany: Both spectators and competitors have had VERY positive experiences and all comment on the environment being very supportive and friendly.
Robert: What does the future hold in store for ballroom dance in the Bay Area?
Bethany: This place is simply teaming with great coaches and dancers. I would not be surprised if this area down the road became THE place to train for Olympic hopefuls.
Robert: How much dance experience does one need to enter the competition?
Bethany: Just need to be in a beginning dance class - no previous experience. We do our very best to keep the newcomer level clean so that no one has had more than 40 hours of instruction.
Robert: When and where will the next competition take place? How much does it cost? How can people get more information?
Bethany: People can call or email us. Here are the details.
San Jose State University - Student Union Ballroom
Saturday October 24th, 1998
$10 unlimited entries for competitors
$10 for spectators
More info: (408) 924-SPIN; or firstname.lastname@example.org; or
Robert: That's terrific. So in a nutshell, people can come to challenge themselves, and have a great time doing it - for a price that is an order of magnitude less than most ballroom comps. If you don't already know the way to San Jose, click your dance shoes or the web to compete, or cheer, or just dance.
The SJSU Ballroom Club has several upcoming events, including a comp on November 18, 2000. Check their web site for more details.