Finding Community within the Ballroom World

Category Student Voices


College student, Olga
Olga Kiyan Class of '22
Authored on October 30, 2019


It was 9:00 AM on a Sunday morning, and as I climbed up to the top floor of the MAC Gym, I could not be more excited for the day to come.

Harvard Beginner’s, which is one of the two annual competitions organized by the Harvard Ballroom Dance Team, was being held that day. I was not going to be competing, as this event is geared more towards beginner dancers. However, this was the first time that the rookie dancers, who had started dancing a mere month prior to this, would perform and compete in front of an audience this big. It was also the first competition attended by dancers on the team, and you could feel the energy buzzing in the air as everyone warmed up and got ready for the dancing that was to come.

A shot from the formation team performance at HBDT showcase

Ballroom dancing is something that I did before coming to college. I began dancing with my brother when I was nine years old, and from our very first class we were hooked. From fun and creative performances to serious training for ballroom competitions, I love every bit of it. It is an art and sport that has demanded the most of me for over nine years, and it is an activity that I cannot imagine my life without. So when I got accepted to Harvard, I knew that this was something I wanted to continue to do. But how? Moving from Florida to Massachusetts, leaving behind both my dance partner and the dance community that I had grown up with, was something I was worried about.

I had no clue what this transition would bring, but I really hoped that ballroom could continue to be my rock in this new phase of life. 

Joining the Harvard Ballroom Dance Team was the perfect way for me to continue doing what I love, even with all the changes that came with starting school at Harvard. From taking classes with the team to performing in showcases choreographed by team members, this group has allowed me to continue doing this activity.

However, more importantly, joining the Ballroom Team allowed me to find an amazing and supportive community here on campus, full of people who love to dance and are like a large family.

For, ultimately, it is the people that remind me why I love ballroom dance so much. As my teammates and I stood around the edges of the floor at Beginner’s, holding posters and screaming in support of the dancers representing the team, I felt proud to be a part of this team and even more grateful to have ballroom dancing in my life. Dance truly brings people together unlike anything else, allowing them to come together and connect no matter where they might be coming from.

My rookie and I  in our costumes for Rookie-Vet Match

The highlight of the day was participating in the Rookie-Vet Match. This event, which matches a beginner dancer with a more experienced member of the team, encourages dancers to perform fun and goofy interpretations of traditional ballroom dances. With no rules or restrictions, my dance partner and I choreographed and danced a Star Wars-theme paso doble. Lightsabers in hand, we prepared to begin our routine. On our right, a couple dressed in '80s workout gear fell into push-ups as part of their dance. Further ahead of us, an inflatable dinosaur and their park ranger also made their way around the dance floor.

No matter what character the dancers decided to take on, there was one thing in common - everyone was excited to be participating, and everyone loved to be doing what they were doing.

For me, it is moments like this that define ballroom. For me, it is moments like this that make me fall in love with dance even more.


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Olga Kiyan Class of '22

Hey y’all! My name is Olga Kiyan, and I am from right outside of Fort Lauderdale, FL. I’m a sophomore living in Winthrop House, and I’m concentrating in economics with a secondary in government.

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College student, Olga