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Social dance cools down for Fall Ball

Fringe went flying when the Swing Cats performed at last year's Fall Ball. (Courtesy of Jason Chuang)

California might not have any festive foliage, but autumn is upon us, bringing with it the annual Fall Ball. On Friday, Oct. 22, the seasons will change in Roble Gym from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. for a night of live music, dancing, games and performances, proving that football is not the only kind of fall ball around here.

Last year’s depression-era themed Hooverville Hop prompted both elegant (think Astaire and Rogers) and ragged (think Great Depression). However, Fall Ball co-chair Acata Felton ‘12 insists this year, “costumes are admired, but not required.”

A seasonally inspired motif will dress up Roble Gym with autumn hues. Attire is at attendees’ discretion – come classy, sassy or completely casual.

The 17-piece Swing Solution Big Band will play a whirlwind of high-energy swing, salsa, foxtrot, tango, cha-cha and maybe a surprise or two. The band, one of the finest born in the Bay Area during the neo-swing movement of the 1990s, will keep the beat going until midnight, when dance Prof. Richard Powers will take over as DJ for a final hour of dancing and games.

Attendees will have a chance to catch their breaths while they are treated to performances by Danse Libre, Decadance, Swing Cats and Swingtime, scattered throughout the evening. Dedicated to reviving social dance traditions and keeping them alive in the 21st century, the four groups perform and teach on campus and throughout the Bay Area.

The booming social dance culture on campus, co-chairs Felton and Sonya Chaudhry ‘13 agree, can be traced back to one source: Richard Powers, a member of the Dance Division faculty for nearly three decades.

“The Fall Ball is really a testament to Richard Powers,” Chaudhry said. His commitment to making dance accessible, and fun a priority, draws hundreds of students into Roble Gym every quarter for class, Jammix or Friday Night Waltz.

Powers, who emphasizes the social aspects as much as the dancing, received an undergraduate degree in engineering before turning to dance pedagogy and history. This dance instructor’s little-known “techie” past, Felton theorizes, results in a teaching method that speaks to Stanford’s innumerable engineers, scientists and students of every academic background.

About a decade and a half old, the Fall Ball is the most recent tradition to join Stanford’s social dance calendar. Its counterparts in the winter and spring – Viennese Ball and Big Dance – complete this unique triad of events.

The quarterly balls ensure that social dance enthusiasts on campus and in the surrounding community have a wealth of opportunities to hone their skills and have a blast, be they decades-long lovers of the waltz or first time lindy-hoppers.

While Viennese Ball channels Vienna, and Big Dance borrows from popular New England dawn dances, the Fall Ball is all Stanford. One notch fancier than Jammix, it requires less formalwear than Viennese and less stamina than the Big Dance all-nighter.

So even if you’ve never danced before, Fall Ball is the perfect opportunity to put your foot in the door, and get out on the dance floor. Tickets for the Fall Ball are on sale now in social dance classes and can be purchased at the door: $15 for students, $25 for others.

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