Performers dazzle competition with international dance moves

Comet dance program take first place in international, local competitions

By Robert Clinton, Sports Editor

The international ballroom dance troupe from Contra Costa College is arguably the best-kept secret on campus.

The dancers held their final dress rehearsal Saturday on campus and seamlessly flowed through both routines without missing a step.

They also held those concrete Miss America smiles that have become a tradition in classical dancing.

Led by ballroom dance instructor Natalia Clarke, the dancers completed another successful performance, dancing the waltz and the foxtrot, taking first place in the City Lights Ball International Dance Competition at City Lights Theater Company in San Jose this past Sunday.

The performers varied in age and body type and all agreed that dance was a viable outlet for anyone looking to step outside of his or her comfort zone.

The pairs range from classmates and married couples to father-daughter combinations.

Dancing for only 10 months the father-daughter team, the Smiths, is the newest pair to enter competition for the group.

“I lost my wife a couple of years ago and Suzanne got tired of watching me sit around and do nothing so she told me to come to dance class with her,” dancer Jerry Smith said.

“Neither of us have ever been dancers, I didn’t even go to the prom,” dancer Suzanne Smith said. “Natalia is amazing – she takes raw material and makes it graceful.”

Clarke’s students are no strangers to performing in front of large crowds.

She said over 300 people attended the international competition.

The troupe performed at the Mad Hatter festival in Vallejo on Dec. 6, 2014 placing first. They also performed at the El Sobrante Stroll parade finishing first in the un-official best dance team competition.

It can be hard to fill an international dance class in an area where classical dancing would not be considered the norm.

Clarke takes creative measures to garner enough interest to fill her classes.

The instructor hands the guys on campus flyers for dance class complaining of the disproportionate number of women enrolled. She then does the opposite to all of the women, resulting in a variety of new dancers every semester.

“I do this for my team,” Clarke said. “It gets very difficult sometimes. There are a lot of outfit changes involved in some of the performances. We make our own wardrobe, do our own repairs and all we want is appreciation. We do a good job representing our school.”