Entering Penfield Hall on a Monday evening, participants from the club stand several yards apart, hands and feet in position, while dancing with their partners. Although traditional ballroom dancing requires partners to touch each other, that won’t happen here.
It is the home of the Mercer Ballroom Dance Club, and the procedures are very different this year than they have been in the past due to the coronavirus.
Last March, when Mercer began announcing COVID-19 security measures, including moving classes to a virtual format, the club was forced to end its meetings for the remainder of the semester. This fall, they immediately got back to playing.
The club started the year with Zoom meetings. “We’ve had all of our meetings on Zoom,” club president Bethany Newton said. âSo we really thought it was important to keep the social aspect of the Mercer Ballroom Club in the Mercer Ballroom Dance Club. Because for us, mingling with new people has always been one of the most important parts. “
The meetings were structured to allow for one-on-one socialization so members could always make new friends, Newton said. During the first 20 minutes of each meeting, participants were sent to breakout rooms to introduce themselves to each other. Then they are brought back to the main hall to start learning their dance moves.
Although club management are doing their best to accommodate safety protocols with COVID-19 in mind, Newton admitted it was complicated to do so.
âIt’s especially difficult on Zoom because it’s difficult to see someone’s hands and feet at the same time on zoom,â Newton said. âIt’s important to see the hands and feet for ballroom activities. “
After a few weeks of meetings, the club carefully reoriented itself towards a face-to-face format at the end of September. The change follows discussions about security protocols between club management and several university officials.
âWe’re so grateful to the Mercer administration because we went out and talked to a bunch of different advisors and supervisors to come up with a safety plan that would allow us to meet in person, as long as we don’t do the touch dancing. activities, âNewton said.
Safety protocols include wearing masks, providing hand sanitizer, putting duct tape on the floor so each participant knows where to stand, and appointing a safety officer, who acts as a liaison between club and campus life, administration and administration of the sports club.
Mercer also hosts a competitive ballroom dance team, but Newton says for the foreseeable future the competitions are canceled. The team usually travel to Georgia Tech for the Helluva Dance Comp, but it’s unclear if the competition will continue.
Nonetheless, the team continues to train in case they are able to compete.
âIf things happen and we can compete, we want to be ready and prepared if it’s possible,â Newton said.
Ultimately, Newton says safety is the most important consideration and that the goals of the club and the team are to have fun and learn to dance.
âThe purpose of the prom club is to have fun and teach everyone who is willing to come,â she said. âMercer students, staff and faculty are encouraged to learn beginner dance steps in everything from waltz to tango to cha-cha to Charleston. “
The Mercer Ballroom Dance Club meets weekly every Monday at 8 p.m. at Penfield Hall.