Amateurs Become Stars at Annual Dance Competition

Published: March 07, 2011 | Read Time: 3 minutes

SUU Director of Recruitment and Retention Jared Wilcken took a social dance class 15 years ago in college and hasn’t formally danced since, and yet, he find himself anticipating a return to the dance floor this Wednesday, March 9, as part of the SUU Ballroom Dance Company’s annual Dancing with the Stars performance.

Though the details vary, the story is quite similar for “star” Nichole Wangsgard, a special education professor here at SUU. According to her partner, Ballroom Dance President Rendall Seely, Wangsgard, who is also a professional cyclist, spends most of her time hunched over a racing bike and until she stepped onto the dance floor this January, had never worn heels.

Admits Seely, “After the first night of rehearsal I was wondering what I had gotten myself into — I mean her mom even laughed when Nichole told her about being in the competition this year.” However, Seely concludes, “Here we are several weeks later and Nichole has shown that with determination and a desire to learn, anything is possible.”

For both Wangsgard and Seely, Dancing with the Stars marked a turning of the table, as Seely, a senior elementary ed major, has taken more than 20 credit hours from Professor Wangsgard.

Wilcken and Wangsgard are not alone, of SUU’s more than 700 faculty, staff and student leaders, seven were selected by Ballroom Dance performers to compete in the 2011 ballroom dance competition.

The couples, consisting of a “star” performer and one dancer, have been working since January to perfect routines for a program includes such popular styles as the Rumba, Argentine Tango, Hustle, Quickstep, Salsa, Cha Cha, Viennese Waltz and Swing.

In addition to Wilcken and Wangsgard, the 2011 “star” roster includes SUUSA President Cody Alderson; resident assistant and sophomore communication major Jenna DeGering; student government officer, ROTC member and senior biology major Sam Findley; accounts receivable supervisor Annette Murray; and biology professor Paul Spruell. They are paired, respectively, with Rebecka Gutierrez, a junior pre-nursing major; Dustin Liechty, a junior, biology/zoology major; Carisa Elliott, a sophomore pre-nursing major; Tim Jenkins, a sophomore general studies major; and Rachel Hinde, a sophomore dance education major. Cindy Stephens, a senior nutrition major, is paired with Wilcken and Seely with Wangsgard.

The dancing duos will spin into action at 7:30 p.m. in the Centrum Arena. Tickets are $7 for general adult admission and $5 for all students. All proceeds support the SUU Ballroom Dance Company.

The Southern Utah University Ballroom Dance Company is one of SUU's outstanding performing groups. The company consists of three performance ensembles with more than 70 student participants. The focus of the group is performing ballroom dances such as the electric American swing, the elegant waltz, the rhythmic samba of Brazil and many more. The SUU Ballroom Dance Company puts on several campus and community events annually including fall showcase, spring showcase, and, of course, Dancing with the Stars. In addition the company reaches out to the surrounding community frequently doing performances for local organizations. This energetic group will keep you tapping your feet as you are entertained by wonderful music, beautiful costumes, and amazing formation ballroom dancing.

The SUU Ballroom Dance Company has toured throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, and Latin America receiving numerous accolades for their performances. The Ballroom Dance Company has quickly grown to become one of the premier performing groups on the Southern Utah University campus. The company maintains a touring program that typically reaches cities across the United States and internationally.

Be part of this truly exhilarating evening. Make your plans to attend Ballroom Dance Company’s Dancing with the Stars.

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