By Billy Huntsman
NMSU’s DanceSport Company, the competitive team of the Kinesiology and Dance (KIND) Department, received a Congressional Recognition Award from the Office of Congressman Steve Pearce on November 8 “for our positive representation of Las Cruces and NMSU.”
The program received the award during the eighth annual Look Who’s Dancing competition, a fundraiser meant to generate money in order to send members of the company to national competitions.
“It’s amazing to be recognized,” says Hannah Cole, NMSU KIND assistant professor and DanceSport’s director. “We work very hard to positively represent our university and our community as we go out into the world and dance and compete.”
Cole went on to say she is very grateful for the support the company receives from the KIND Department, the College of Education, and the university as a whole.
This is not the first time the DanceSport Company has been recognized for their positive contributions to the community. Last year, Dance TV featured the company in a documentary. According to Cole, the company made up the majority of the footage in the documentary.
“We’ve had the opportunity to definitely put New Mexico State University on the map with other universities,” Cole says.
Perhaps the biggest distinction KIND has is the fact its master’s program, established in 2012, is the only such program in the country. Current master’s students number three, Cole says.
“Many of them go on and have professional ballroom dance careers,” says Cole.
Even bachelor’s recipients go on to successful and solid careers.
“One thing that I do promise is anybody who comes through my program successfully, that I will work very hard to find them a job,” says Cole.
A graduate of the program who remained local is Leonard Thurman, who teaches professionally at The Groove Merchant studio, 650 Montana Avenue, Suite H.
Two other KIND graduates from last year, one a master’s, the other a bachelor’s, are currently teaching ballroom dance in Milwaukee. Another, only a minor, is currently teaching dance in El Paso, Cole says.
“Right now we’re seeing a much greater influx in majors,” says Cole.
The reason for this, Cole says, is that students are worried about their survival, much as she was when she was in college.
For dance majors, “There’s a very clear pathway to have a career and a great life,” Cole says.
The ballroom dance option, in particular, offers many career opportunities, Cole says, unlike the other styles of dance.
“Studios are booming,” Cole says. “Everybody needs teachers. And part of being a professional ballroom dancer is that you teach. And the pathway’s clear. (Graduates) will start with a decent salary, they’ll be taken care of, they’ll have room to grow, they can easily move into studio ownership or a bazillion different facets of the world of dancing.”
Cole says the program, unlike other university dance programs, is really career-driven.
“For those who are not planning on being professional ballroom dancers, it still trains people to be professionals,” Cole says.
Cole says graduates have come back and praised the program for enabling them to interview well, to speak well before audiences, to feel “comfortable in their own skin.”
Cole’s fundraising goal for Look Who’s Dancing was $80,000. With these funds, in two weeks, DanceSport will travel first to Columbus, Ohio, for their first competition. After that, they will travel to a national qualifier in New York City. If they qualify, they will then travel to Baltimore for the national competition.
“In the last three years, we’ve brought home 17 national and national collegiate champions,” says Cole.
Danny Grooms, who sits on the company’s volunteer board, is extremely proud of the company and program, as is Cole.
“It’s a hell of a lot of hard work and more fun than you’ll ever imagine,” Grooms says.