Q&A with Alessandra Gambino ‘09, Andrew Abreu ‘09, and Olivia Lau ‘10.
What They Do:
Provide lessons and competition opportunities in many areas of dance, including ballroom, swing, and tango.
Alessandra Gambino ‘09
Major: Chemical Engineering
Swing Club Vice President
Hometown: Northport, NY
Andrew Abreu ‘09
Major: Materials Engineering
Hometown: Miami, FL
Manages the Argentine Tango lessons. Has been involved with the club since his freshman year.
Olivia Lau ‘10
Co-captain of the Ballroom Dance team. Has been involved since her freshman year.
Hometown: New York, NY
Who joins your club?
We get quite a mix of attendees from all walks of life. Alessandra
The people that join our club are very curious, fun-loving, and are an upbeat crowd. Since I speak for tango, I can say that the members are committed to learning, and are very open to new ideas and ways of dancing. Sometimes the guys will dance with each other if that’s what it takes to get something out of the day’s lesson. Andrew
People who love to dance and/or want to learn how to dance. We have a wide range of majors, from mechanical and electrical engineering to physics and bio majors. Olivia
Describe a typical get-together or activity.
The Swing portion has only been around for a little more than a year but it is growing quickly. We have instructors from the area teach once a week in areas of Lindy Hop, Charleston, and Balboa. Alessandra
A typical lesson usually starts with a warm-up, such as practicing basic walking (Argentine Tango style of course). The instructor will demonstrate the concepts and moves he wants to teach, makes some pretty comedic analogies, people laugh and loosen up, grab partners and dance. About a third of the members know each other, so that helps the social aspect as people aren’t too shy to communicate, but at the same time, new members are pretty open and have a good sense of humor as well. Andrew
Our practices are very laid-back and can get pretty silly, depending on the mood. Our members usually spend to bulk of the time practicing with their partners, but often dance with other members. The music ranges from Latin dances like cha-cha and rumba to standard waltz, tango, and foxtrot. Olivia
What sets your club apart from the rest?
Swing dancing is fun and is a great way to meet new and interesting people! Alessandra
The obvious factor that sets the Argentine Tango and ballroom apart from the other clubs in general is the members’ interest in dancing. Yes there’s the dance team and hip hop and stuff, but our dances are partner dances. With partner dances, a degree of intimacy can be felt, as you and your partner have to trust each other as well as communicate, and as it was said in “Take the Lead,” “The leader proposes the step, and it is the follower’s duty to accept or deny the proposal.” You don’t experience that in any other club. Andrew
We’re very much like a big, crazy family. After Sunday practices, the bulk of us head over to Commons for dinner and often take up 2 or 3 tables (preferable arranged in an L or S). Even the manager knows us as “the Dance Team” whenever we come in. Olivia
Does your club give you a chance to be involved in a greater community (outside from RPI)?
In addition to on-campus classes, we also encourage dancing in the community. We arrange car pools to dances in the area and this year we are able to send a couple of dancers to Massachusetts for a workshop weekend. Alessandra
There’s a very large and well-established Tango community outside of RPI, and our instructor routinely sends emails encouraging people to come to the “practicas” and the lessons at the various dance studios in Albany. Consequently, there’s a good connection between the club and the community, which allows those members who are interested to participate in those lessons and practices, as well as milongas (tango dance parties) and weekend workshops. Andrew
We support the Capital Region’s USA Ballroom Dance Association by attending their monthly dances at the Polish Community Center. Our coach has also started an “Underground Ballroom” at the Fuzebox to promote social dancing within the community. Olivia
Are you gaining skills that will help you when you leave RPI?
As the manager of the lessons, I’ve learned a great deal of skills that I definitely think would help me outside of graduation. I’ve gained knowledge of leadership, and I’ve applied classroom theories that are taught in the Professional Development I course. Having that kind of experience, and knowing how to run an organization while maintaining a vision of an improved club, is something I will be able to take with me into the real world and apply in different environments. From having to schedule lessons with the instructor, coordinating big events with other ballroom club members, and marketing for the club, and even handling the finances of the lessons, I’ve pretty much covered every base for running an organization. Andrew
Partnership and trust are a few things that I have learned to develop by joining the Ballroom Team. I’ve come to trust my partner when he leads me in dancing, and we continually try to improve our dancing together. Furthermore, ballroom dancing definitely helps with posture and holding yourself high with confidence. Olivia