Ballroom Dance Company at SUU was created as part of the Entertainment Bureau in the Spring of 1995 by Del Beatty. He had become acquainted with Melissa Jewkes whose husband was working at that time in Athletic Marketing. With Melissa’s tremendous background and success in the Ballroom world, it was exciting for us to have her to working here. The team itself actually had no budget yet, and that year, the Ballroom Dance Spring Concert was held in conjunction with the Acclamation Revue as one show…because with only one semester of material behind them there wasn’t enough to present a full show alone. Although it was a small first show for the Ballroom Dance Company they gave a fantastic show and paved the way for another dance program to begin at SUU that would offer opportunities for involvement in performance.
There was tremendous interest generated for the Ballroom Team from the beginning, and students had the desire to not only compete as a team, but to compete as individual couples as well. The team grew and succeeded under the direction of Melissa and filled the role it was designed to fill in providing involvement opportunities for our students, educational training in competitive ballroom dance syllabus steps and experience in local competitions. Melissa established a strong relationship with Continuing Education and began offering ballroom technique classes, encouraging her team members to enroll and develop proper technique and skill, which also continued with the successive directors of our company until 2004.
The Early Years
After three years, Melissa’s husband accepted new employment in New Jersey and she unfortunately had to leave SUU. At the time of her departure it was her recommendation that we hire someone with a degree in Ballroom Dance to lead the team in her absence. However, we were both afraid that no one would come to SUU for the salary we could offer unless they had other employment in Cedar City, a spouse working on campus, or some other reason for being here. This fear became a reality, but we were able to hire two outstanding Ballroom students (Cory Rivers and Eric Hansen) to split the salary and direct for one year so that the team would continue. Cory Rivers ultimately finished coaching for the duration of the year, and ended with a tour to California and Catalina Island. After his graduation from SUU, we offered the role of Ballroom Dance Company directorship to Richard & Marie Roberts. They did a fabulous job with the teams, and as graduates of BYU with degrees in Ballroom Dance, they brought professionalism and insight to the program which continued to flourish under their direction for two years.
After their two years with us, Richard and Marie moved to Florida to accept new employment, and to be closer to Marie’s family. At this point, and upon their recommendation, we again turned to one of our own talented student dancers, Andrea Zundel, to provide leadership to our team. She had served as assistant director in the company for two years. She accepted the job. The ballroom company has always given opportunities to dancers with and without prior experience, and the company continued to grow under her direction. The year ended with a performance tour to Hawaii. After Andrea graduated from SUU we hired another student, Jennifer Maughan, who directed the SUU BDC program for three years and accomplished great things during her time with us. She continued offering technique classes through continuing education. Jennifer recruited several students who had never danced before, and helped them to discover a “passion” for ballroom dancing. This has actually been typical of all our directors -- the fact that they recruit many students that do not possess previous ballroom training, or have danced on other forms of dancing teams, however they also work with many students that have danced on their high school ballroom teams, or studied at professional ballroom studios with Paul Winkelman, Buddy Schwimmer, Rick Robison and others in the Salt Lake and Provo/Orem areas. The majority of our team members today fall into those similar categories, and when they come together as a ballroom team they are strong and excel as performers.
The First Decade
For the past 10 years we have been watching the ballroom team grow and flourish; we believe it is because of students hard work, dedication, and love for ballroom dancing! In recent years there has been a tremendous resurgence in interest regarding Ballroom Dancing because of television shows like “So You Think You Can Dance," “Dancing with the Stars”.
Two outstanding and experienced former team members students, Rachelle Brewer and Ana Sargent, to lead the team during the 2005-2006 school year. Again the team flourished and enjoyed much success in addition to an outstanding year-end tour to California. The Ballroom program continued to grow in popularity, and the following year Mark Baker was hired to direct the program.
During the 2007-08 academic year Ballroom Dance found a new home under the College of Performing and Visual Arts (CPVA). Dean Bill Byrnes, working with Vice President for Student Affairs Donna Eddleman, Shauna Mendini, and Mark Baker, took the steps to move Ballroom under the operation of the Dean's Office. New classes were created under the banner of PVA for the Ballroom Touring and Backup Ensembles. In addition, several new social dance and ballroom dance classes were added to the CPVA Dance Program.
In the fall of 2008 the transition was completed and now Ballroom Dance is thriving as part of the CPVA. Over 150 students auditioned for the Touring Ensemble and Back up Ensembles. The various ballroom dance classes were filled to capacity in the fall of 2008. In 2010 we brought Andrea Zundel Johnson back to direct the ballroom company once again. During the years she was gone from SUU, she founded and established a ballroom dance performance company at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
As we enter the SUU Ballroom Dance Company’s 16th year, we are looking forward to an exciting time of continued growth.