Strictly Ballroom: ISyE Undergraduate Chase Warner Lights Up the Dance Floor
When he’s not studying, you can probably find Chase Warner, a fourth-year in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE), on the dance floor.
As a first-year, Warner attended a swing dance held by the Georgia Tech Dance Association. He liked it so much that he soon went to another event, this one held by the Ballroom Dance Club (BDC) at Georgia Tech. By the end of the evening, he was hooked.
“I was in show choir in high school,” Warner said. “So coming to college, I wanted to find a way to keep performing, which was how I fell into ballroom dancing.”
He was invited by BDC members to start dancing competitively. “My partner, [second-year BME major] Cameron Russ, and I practice several hours every day,” Warner explained. “We started dancing together this past January. At one competition, we practiced a dance we had just learned for an hour and then went and competed it.” The partnership has been successful, as the pair has won the silver division and placed high in the gold and open divisions at competitions.
During a dance competition, groups of up to 20 couples compete in heats. The lead – usually male – is dressed plainly in black pants, a black tie, and a white shirt with a number pinned to the back. The follow – usually a female and the focal point of the pair – wears an elaborate dress. During each heat, judges walk around and comparatively evaluate each couple. Then the judges call pairs back so that eventually, the eight best dancers are on the floor for the finals.
In total, the Ballroom Dance Club has around 36 members on the competition team, which travels to various national ballroom dance competitions throughout the year. The club also has begun hosting its own annual dance competition at Tech, Helluva Dance Competition, in coordination with other collegiate dance clubs. This year, about 100 competitors attended.
Warner takes his studies as seriously as he takes dancing. This past spring, he received the ISyE College of Engineering Honors Day Award, which is given to the engineering student with the best academic performance at the end of the third year. He has served as an undergraduate teaching assistant and participated in a co-op. Dancing lets him take a break from his academic pursuits.
“For me, dancing is a form of stress relief, since classes at Tech can be so intense. And it’s something I can keep doing even after I graduate. A professional dancer once told me they had a student begin dancing at the age of 84. So I could keep doing this until I’m 100,” Warner said, laughing. “The other part of it is that it’s a real community. It’s been a great way to meet people outside of Georgia Tech, because when you’re at a competition for 24 hours, you make some friends. You’re all there to dance, for a common hobby.”
And what should students do if they want to get involved in ballroom dancing?
“Come to our social dance,” Warner said. “We always hold one the first week of the semester. We also hold beginner lessons once a week.”
You can find more information about Georgia Tech’s Ballroom Dance Club at the group’s website: https://ballroomdance.gtorg.gatech.edu/sociallessons.php.