Miami Ballroom Classes

Two rows of students stood across from each other on the University Center Patio as the sounds of El Tango de Roxanne played from two large portable speakers. They watch intently as the couple demonstrating the tango moved like one unit across the patio.

The students are part of Miami Ballroom’s weekly on campus classes.

This semester, instead of a professional instructor, students are demonstrating the tango routine to other students. Leading this class were Miami Ballroom team members Jason Houston, a graduate student, and sophomore Kathleen Munley.

Since its establishment three years ago, Miami Ballroom was the only dance group on campus to hire an instructor for their classes. However, funds are running low and budget issues led to the team’s decision to have their Competition and Performance Team members take over the teaching.

“I think it’s a good change,” said senior Javier Farinas, president of the Miami Ballroom. “It gives students a chance to expand and use their leadership skills.”

Farinas, a music major, said that the team members’ experience in ballroom dancing have grown since the club’s first year; now they have enough members who are qualified to teach.

Miami Ballroom received a $5,000 donation when it was founded in 2007 by Alex Suarez-Mondshein during her freshman year at the University of Miami. But after three years, cost is starting to catch up.

In past years, through donations and budgeting from Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee (SAFAC), the club received about $1000 a semester, but had to pay $2000 to hire an instructor, said Houston, the treasurer of Miami Ballroom who’s studying for a master’s degree in business administration. Miami Ballroom only charges $35 per semester.

The only solution: cut costs.

“So now we’re changing it so that the club is more student taught, student led, student built,” Houston said.

Placed in the position of teaching to help out the club, both Houston and Munley, two of the four team instructors for the classes, welcomed the change as something that may not be for the worse.

“I love teaching,” Munley, a marine biology major, said. “You think you know the steps before and think they’re easy but with dance you should always go back. With teaching you review the basics and you learn both the guy’s and the girl’s parts really well.”

While the team members honed their skills, students enjoyed the change as well. Mayra Vargas, 22, a political science major who recently started attending classes with her boyfriend enjoyed it after just two classes.

“I just want to learn so whenever I go somewhere I can have some steps and stuff,” Vargas said. “And here $35 is not bad at all, when you have to go and pay hundreds of dollars to learn a few steps.”

Even though Miami Ballroom classes are open to people of all ages, students are still mostly UM students.  Graduate student Derek Freitas, who is studying for a master’s degree in public health, points out most students want their peers to teach them.

“It’s better with student instructors, since they’re more in tune, as opposed to someone who’s 30 years older than you,” Freitas said.

Esther Pang may be contacted at


Miami Ballroom Classes:

When: Thursdays

Time: 6 – 7 p.m. Ballroom: 7 – 8 p.m. Latin

Place: UC Patio (subject to change)

Cost: $35 for students/ semester (first lesson is free)

October 24, 2010


Esther Pang

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