Salt Lake to host amateur ballroom contest

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    By Andrea Boyce

    Football players have their NFL and the super bowl, and soccer players have the MLS and the World Cup. For ballroom dancers the association is called USABDA, and the main competition is Nationals. This year, Nationals is coming to Salt Lake, which means good things for many local dancers.

    The United States Amateur Ballroom Dance Association (USABDA) is the governing body that regulates the world of ballroom dancing. The association makes sure each competition that is sanctioned by them follows the same guidelines and standards.

    Ken Richards, national communications director for USABDA, said the organization has several different functions. Besides regulating competitions, the association also keeps dancers across the nation informed through a monthly magazine newsletter.

    “Throughout the US different chapters exist, and it is the individual chapters that decide what is emphasized, either competitive dancing or social dancing,” Richards said.

    USABDA was formed when several small clubs and chapters joined together to make rules and regulations for each chapter to follow. USABDA is the only ballroom dance organization recognized by the International Dancesport Federation, Richards said.

    This national championship competition is special, in that it is the only competition the winners of become eligible to compete at the World Championships.

    “The winners who are crowned here at this competition become the United States representatives at the World competition,” he said.

    The National competition isn”t always held in Salt Lake. The organizers like to rotate it around the country, to allow many different people to have the chance to compete.

    “We like to hold the competition in different places because some competitors, because of funds or travel conflicts can”t attend it each year,” Richards said.

    Salt Lake was attractive because of the large number of amateur dancers in the area. Many middle schools and high schools, as well as colleges, provide classes and opportunities for students to learn how to dance, he said.

    “It is unique to have a strong concentration of young dancers in one area and we like to take advantage of that,” he said.

    Organizers of different clubs vie for the national competition to be held in their area. Shawn Fisher, the official organizer of the National competition is also the Idaho chapter organizer.

    “Two years ago the Utah USABDA Chapter put in the bid to bring the national competition to Salt Lake City. Last summer, USABDA council asked Fisher to step in as the official organizer.

    Fisher is no stranger to ballroom dancing or to BYU. He interests in ballroom dancing began when he was a student at BYU. As a favor to a girl in his family home evening group, Fisher took a dance class with her so she could get into the class. He is now the Ricks College ballroom dance director.

    “We are hoping to have several hundred couples compete at this event,” Fisher said. This competition won”t be as big as the competitions hosted by BYU.

    “Many of the younger dancers take the summer off from training, and the formation teams train during the school year, so they won”t be coming as teams,” he said.

    Fisher is excited about the idea of Salt Lake hosting a national competition.

    “There will be some very talented and well-respected dancers at this competition,” he said. Some of the top dancers in the country will be competing, and it will be a treat to watch them.”

    Competitors will be vying for the chance to represent the USA in the World Championships in both Standard ballroom and Latin American categories, Fisher said.

    Tory Parker, a local competitor, plans to take advantage of the opportunity to compete.

    “It”s a big competition, and since it is so close, I figured why not compete.”

    Parker knows the competition will be tough.

    “I”m looking forward to the opportunity to compete against dancers from across the country, and if nothing else they will be fun to watch,” he said.

    The competition will be at the Grand America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake. Fisher arranged with the hotel to host it before the ballroom was even finished.

    Fisher is pleased with the way the ballroom turned out, and believes it will provide the perfect atmosphere for the competition.

    According to the official Web site of USABDA, the competition runs August 9-11, with sessions being held in the afternoon and evening. The registration due date ends July 26.

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