By Megan McCourt, senior, journalism major

On the first day of beginning ballroom dance, most people looked scared. Some of them think they have two left feet, others worry they won’t be able to keep time. Most everyone is nervous about having to be physically close to the opposite sex.

By the end of the semester, young men and women are whirling and twirling around the dance studio in Yolo 213, waltzing like European royalty and doing the cha-cha with more flair than you can find at a night club in Havana. This is the magic of ballroom dance.

When I first started in beginning ballroom two years ago, I was a little nervous. I had been dancing my whole life, but never had to rely on a partner. After the very first day, I felt at ease because the whole class was laughing, learning, and moving all together.

Having to dance with a partner and let them lead was the most challenging aspect. For once in my life, I wasn’t in control. In ballroom dance, the leader is the one who dictates what moves to do and what speed to go. I had to let the men do their thing, whether I thought we were off beat or was bored with doing the basic step over and over and over again.

Beginning ballroom student Tiffany Richter and ballroom teacher’s assistant Giovanni LoCascio dance the cha-cha in Patricia Smiley’s beginning ballroom class.

During the course of the semester, people began to emerge from their shells. By the time we learned salsa, no one was embarrassed to practice swinging and sashaying their hips in time with the music — even the guys. By the end of the semester, the entire class was confident in their dancing abilities, and many students went on to take intermediate ballroom, myself included.

Since that first beginning class, I haven’t had a semester without ballroom in my schedule. It becomes addictive once you learn how to do it, and there’s always more to learn.

Chico also has a fabulous ballroom community. Besides the seven sections of ballroom dance offered, the Ballroom Dance Club also hosts four evening workshops a week and bi-monthly themed dances on Fridays.

Students in Patricia Smiley’s beginning ballroom class work on the cha-cha, a dance that originated in Cuba.

Studio One, a community dance center that used to be housed at the Chico Creek Dance Centre, recently opened in a new 4,000 square-foot location on 7th and Wall and holds many workshops and dances.

Ballroom dance is a great alternative for students who want to meet new friends, get in shape, or just have fun. People who have never danced before can quickly learn how to swing and foxtrot, and it’s a skill that will stick with you for the rest of your life.

Don’t be caught unprepared at the next wedding you go to — take a ballroom dance class and wow the crowd with your waltzing prowess.