Sunset Classic features members of UCLA’s Dancesport Club as hosts of the club’s inaugural ballroom dance competition.
Alumnus Taylor Lane Daymude said the club’s coordination and fundraising for the competition is heavily student-run. Teams within the circuit alternate hosting the competition each year, he said, so this year, UCLA will fund and host the event, while USC’s club will provide administrative support because it has hosted past years’ events. The Sunset Classic competition will be held in Ackerman Grand Ballroom on Saturday, and Lane Daymude said the event hopes to showcase competitors in the Collegiate Dancesport Association and their passion for the art form.
Beginners and professionals from around the region will compete in ballroom dances within the International Styles of Latin and standard, as well as those within the American Styles of smooth and rhythm, Lane Daymude said.
“UCLA’s Dancesport team, just as an ethos, is a very open and cooperative team, and that reputation has come with us out into the dance world,” Lane Daymude said. “We’re able to host competitions and start taking a place within the collegiate dancesport world, as we already have in terms of attending competitions, but now in terms of hosting the competition.”
Aside from formalizing UCLA’s place in the competition world, third-year Asian humanities student Kalani Newman said the competition also spreads awareness about the presence and significance of ballroom dance on campus and in the dance world. Collaborating with groups like Salsa Society at UCLA and Club Tango at UCLA so dancers participating can learn from one another’s skills allows the team to extend its influence beyond its own team members and permeate different groups on campus, he said.
Newman has been competing in dance at the collegiate level for three years, in addition to his total 10 years of dance experience. He said he appreciates that the event allows people of different skill levels to come together and enjoy something they all love. By having instructors begin with the basics and help people reach the proper technique, he said those who are new to the style can quickly learn.
“I want (beginners) to walk away understanding that dance is so versatile and an art that sometimes people take for granted,” Newman said. “We want to show everybody that ballroom dance is … a thing that everybody should at least view because it’s breathtaking.”
Sunset Classic aims to balance both beginner and advanced atmospheres through its leveling system that ensures each competitor performs the set moves in accordance with their skill set, Lane Daymude said. There are different divisions – newcomer, bronze, silver, gold, and the open levels, which are the most advanced divisions in which dancers can create their own choreography. Each level has prescribed moves set in place for the dancers, but they choose in which order to demonstrate them, he said.
Jesse Ren, a member of the Dancesport team, said he is familiar with the club’s beginner-friendly atmosphere. He has only been dancing for a year and a half, but said the more advanced dancers serve as mentors, which helps balance the different skill levels at the competition.
“We have divisions specifically for beginners called rookie/vet, where a rookie can dance with someone who is silver level or above,” Ren said.
Newman said planning the competition required plenty of preparation, in addition to considering its atmosphere. He said he worked to book the space in Ackerman a year in advance, Ren coded the script for the competition website, and Lane Daymude helped oversee measures such as floor size and fair leveling to be consistent with formal competition policies.
After a year of preparation, the Sunset Classic competition hopes to extend its influence beyond UCLA by inviting others from the Los Angeles community to the event, Lane Daymude said. The club expects more than 100 participants and a large audience to support the competition, both in person and through its livestream. The club wants to leave a good impression of dancesport as a whole, and also show spectators that it continues to strive for legitimacy as a sport and an art, Newman said. The club also hopes to create this image by being reflective of UCLA’s interdisciplinary nature, Lane Daymude said.
“Dancesport can play an important role in demonstrating the intersection between sports and artistry,” Lane Daymude said. “To be able to have an art that is a sport and a sport that is an art at the same time plays a very important role within the culture, the sports world and the arts world.”