The Power of Perseverance: BSU Dancers Dance Throughout the Pandemic

BSU Ballroom Dance ClubWhen COVID-19 left many uncertainties for Bemidji State University clubs, the BSU dance clubs came up with ways to keep the music going, even when the pandemic stopped the music.

BSU dance competitors Julian and Elly. The first dance club on campus dates back to 1945. Bemidji State is now home to three dancing clubs, the Swing Dance Club, BSU Dance Team and the BSU Ballroom Dance Club. Before the pandemic took a grip on the BSU campus, the Swing Dance Club was preparing for a competition against the Fargo Dance Club. Meanwhile, the Dance Team was in the middle of training new dancers and the Ballroom Dance Club was preparing for its second appearance in the National Collegiate Ballroom Dance competition

“Our dance clubs love to be together, socialize and dance – in a normal year, this is just assumed and expected,” Suzy Langhout, advisor of the clubs and adjunct instructor in the Department of Human Performance, Sport and Health, said. “When the restrictions took place, everything they found normal was gone… we could no longer be together – it was tough.”

While participation in the clubs was limited for the school year, students continued to meet virtually and in-person when COVID-19 guidelines permitted, preserving the tradition of dancing at BSU that has existed since 1945.

While the Swing Dance Club was able to meet weekly and continued to welcome new dancers, the BSU Dance Team maintained a cohort of nine dancers and met virtually twice a week to work on skills and routines.

Meanwhile, the BSU Ballroom Dance Club met once a week to learn social-style ballroom dances and perfect their routines for an annual judge’s critique and two traveling competitions including the National Collegiate Ballroom Dance competition. Students focused on six primary competitive partner dances: the American foxtrot, the European slow waltz, the tango from Argentina, the rumba and cha cha cha from Cuba, and the American-style East Coast swing.


At the national level, the BSU Ballroom Dance Club climbed to be ranked 4th in the nation, up from 9th and 13th in 2019 and 2018 respectively, including a top 6th performance in the East Coast swing routine. The ballroom club also participated in online competitions organized by the University of Minnesota where university dancers submitted videos of their pieces to be reviewed, ranked and scored from a panel of professional ballroom dance judges.

Even though the pandemic caused many challenges, the annual Funtastic Dance Follies event was able to continue on, allowing it to remain the 3rd longest tradition at BSU.