History of the Club

Tripping the Light Fantastic

A Short History of the U of S Ballroom Dancing Club

From its humble beginnings in 1965 as a shoestring operation, the U. of S. B.D.C. has evolved into one of the largest of its kind in Canada. This development was totally unforseen by club founders, who originally envisaged the dance club as an ad hoc organization subject to dissolution at any time.

Two Nigerian graduate students, Olajide Koleoso and Ike Azogu, were the original founders of the club. Curiously, in Nigeria ballroom dancing was taught in the school system in the same way that we in Canada teach volleyball or basketball - complete with rivalries and competitions between schools. Steeped in this tradition it was natural for Jide and Ike to introduce their pedal pursuits into a long and cold Saskatchewan winter. In 1965 there were but thirty people in the club, each paying a membership fee of two dollars. An old teaching phonograph with a reputed 40 gram needle provided the sound, while the Tennessee Waltz constituted the mainstay of the music selection. Practices were frequently held in the basement of the MUB (which now houses Louis'). Occasionally the club would obtain the upper MUB or part of it, the storage areas behind the double doors, for practice space.

For the first five years of the club's existence, membership stayed relatively stable at several hundred. A Constitution was introduced primarily to secure from the University the use of facilities free of charge. The trump card played by the Executive in these early years was the threat that, if the administration did not cooperate fairly, the club would simply disband.

In 1972 the British style of dancing was abandoned by the U. of S. B. D.C., which opted instead for the social ballroom dancing of the character developed by Fred Astaire and Arthur Murray. Characteristic of the early 70's also was a series of Chief Instructors. A policy of remuneration for the Chief Instructor was another development of this time - mainly for the purpose of distinguishing that individual from the rest of the Instructors.

In 1974 it was decided that yearly dances should be subsidized and at Dancero of that year there was free filet mignon, four free bottles of wine per table, and drinks purchased at a nominal fee. Food and atmosphere, not strictly dancing, received emphasis during these years.

Enrollment in the U. of S. B.D.C. reflected the ballroom dancing craze which swept the country in the 1970's. The mid-seventies witnessed a dramatic increase in the club's membership. In 1977 enrollment had to be limited to 1500, with the number of students in some classes reaching 120.

In 1983, a new logo was designed for the U. of S. B.D.C. by club member Dan Coggins. In later year the popularity of this logo would see a need to have it trademarked to control its use.

The 20th Anniversary of the club was celebrated in 1985 at Dancero. The festivities included an outstanding banquet and continuous music. In honor of the club's 20th Anniversary, Ron Knoll choreographed a special dance routine involving the majority of the instructors.

The first theme dance was held in February of 1986. It included a Jive dance contest. Costumed theme dances have become a very special part of every Winter Warm-Up since. Prizes for best costumes are awarded and a fun dance that matches the theme is often demonstrated and taught.

In 1990 the club celebrated its 25th Anniversary at Dancero. A committee set up to plan the event invited past instructors and executive members to attend. The dance demonstrations for the 25th Anniversary show were done Broadway musical stylw tih all instructors participating in at least one routine. The show was professionally videotaped. Also in 1990 the club hired a contract secretary to help relieve the workload of the Executive as the club continued to grow in size and complexity.

1992 saw one of our instructors, Dean Jones, being awarded a 25 year service award for appreciation of 25 years of enthusiastic volunteer spirit for the time he had spent as a member and instructor with the B.D.C. He would be the first of several to receive such an award. Also in 1992 the club introduced our first newsletter with a prize to be awarded for the best name. Let UofS Dance was chosen and the newsletter went to being published four times per season to give members information about the club. Within a year the newsletter was giving information on such events as the newly introduced member workshops, weekend dance workshops free to members that gave intensive instruction in one area of dance.

In 1993 in an effort to maintain the B.D.C.'s current status on campus, negotiations were entered into with the U. of S. Student's's Union. By 1994 the club has recognized that it clearly did not fit within the guidelines set by the U.S.S.U for campus club status due to an ever increasing number of members many of whom were not current u. of S. students. In 1994 the club was awarded Friendship Status by the U. of S. administration. That status continues to be maintained.

1995 saw the celebration of 30 continuous years of dancing and in 1996 the club received a congratulatory letter from one of the original club founders, Jide Koleoso from Lagos State Nigeria, wishing the club well on its continued success.

The club jumped into the 1990's style of communication in 1997 with the creation of the U. of S. B.D.C. web site ( http://duke.usask.ca/uofsbdc ) and shortly thereafter e-mail.

In 1998/99, the club topped 1,700 members with 46 instructors teaching a total of 19 classes. This necessitated the addition of another Executive position, Decorations Coordinator, to make dance event planning easier. Mistletoes dance tickets sold out for the first time in the history of the club and Dancero spread to two dance floors in the Centennial Auditorium to handle the growing numbers of members attending. The club also contracted its third employee, an Electronic Communications Officer, to handle the growing web site and e-mail traffic.

The club itself continues to meet its main objectives as first set down in 1965: quality dance instruction and the opportunity to meet and socialize with others - all at a token cost. We eagerly await the changes the future will bring!