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Heart of Utah: Ballroom dancers finding safe ways to compete

A team competing at the Pleasant Grove Invitational. (Jeri Huish)

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah — Ballroom dancers in Utah are hoping to put a safe foot forward to keep competing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Zaida Adams loves ballroom dance.

“I’ve been dancing for five years. Ballroom dance is just my happy place. I love dance, and I love that I can just take a break from the rest of the world and just dance and focus on what makes me happy,” she said.

Adams is co-captain of the ballroom dance team at Cedar Valley High School in Eagle Mountain. The other captain is Patrick Roberts. He’s been on the team for three years.

“No matter how stressed I am, how much school work I have, or how many external challenges I’m facing, I can always dance. The stress of life stops as soon as the music starts,” said Roberts.

Courtesy Zaida Adams, Cedar Valley High School

When ballroom dance partners with a pandemic 

But, ballroom dance is one sport that has yet to make a full come back during the pandemic. Thousands of dancers were about to compete in the International DanceSport competition at BYU in March 2020, right when everything suddenly shut down and was canceled.

Many didn’t get to compete again until the end of October, at the Pleasant Grove Invitational.

“We were really happy we could compete. It felt great to be on that dance floor again,” said Adams.

“The Pleasant Grove invitational was an amazing opportunity. We practiced so hard, and gave our all into it because we missed it so much,” said Roberts.

It came about with a lot of preparation, planning, and precautions in light of the pandemic. They broadcast it live on YouTube and did the team events virtually through Zoom.

Dancers wore masks on the dance floor and in the stands, where they also sat physically distanced. They cleaned and sanitized in between every dance. Only a few people were allowed inside at a time.

Ballroom dancers return to the art of dance 

“I had tears of joy to see them back on the floor,” said Pleasant Grove High School ballroom director Tiffanie Harding. “They did everything that was asked of them.”

Some of the students do multi-dance events, so they could be out there on the floor for several minutes at a time, which Harding said is hard to do in a mask. Performing, with a partner, moving forwards, backward, sideways to the music– and breathing.



Harding believes dancing brings joy to those who dance and those who watch. She said they knew it would be hard, but they wanted to find a way to let dancers perform and compete again, and for families to see it. 

Utah is internationally known for ballroom dance talent. There are usually one or two competitions a month happening around the country. But not this year.

“COVID has taken a big hit for professionals in our area and around the world,” said Harding.

Harding says an event like the Pleasant Grove Invitational would usually just be one day. This one lasted until 10:30 p.m. the next day, because of all the cleaning precautions and social distancing. Kids even left to take the ACT and then came back.

“We just wanted a way for the teams to have success and for the parents to see,” she said.

“It takes a lot of work to put together a competition on a normal day, not just a pandemic,” said Adams. “I say this for all of us dancers, we are so grateful for your hard work to put together a competition.”

Roberts agreed: “Every opportunity that I get to dance is a blessing,” he said.

Dancing forward 

They hope the success of the Pleasant Grove Invitational means they can have more safe competitions now.

The only other local competition that has happened since March was the Freedom Open. The BYU Dancesport Championships which usually happen in November was canceled due to the pandemic.

Ballroom dancers at the Pleasant Grove Invitational (Jeri Huish)

But, the next scheduled competition is the Provo High Dancesport Festival on January 29 and 30. They believe it will probably be a similar format to the Pleasant Grove Invitational.

“I hope that the season can continue and that we can still dance on the dance floor and compete against our friends and other teams. I just really hope we can stay safe in the process and that the season will go on,” said Adams.

“If we don’t get to do everything we did last year, that’s ok. I will be more than content with the performances, competitions, and practices that we do get,” said Roberts.

“COVID-19 was not how I wanted this year to go, but life has a way of working out despite the stumbling blocks.”