COLUMBIA — A woman in a pink tank top and black pants stands with her arm on her partner’s shoulder and her hand in his. Their knees are slightly bent, but not touching ready to begin the fox trot.
She has black hair, with a few silver streaks spread throughout it, that comes to the middle of her back. She is short, coming up to the chin of her partner.
And she has a smile on her face that you get when you're doing something you love.
The music begins to play through the small black speakers along the walls of the room. The song is “You’re the Boss.” It has a quick beat to it. Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret sing to each other with deep and slow voices.
Colette Nolin and her partner begin to dance. Her black high-heeled dance shoes slide along the floor. Their feet cross as they do spins, but they never touch. They move gracefully across the dance studio as if they are one person, moving slowly up and down with every step like a gentle wave.
The music stops, and she has that smile on her face. The instructor steps forward and explains how the dance went, adding some advice along the way.
“That was good, very good,” the instructor said. “Just remember in the fox trot, when the lady goes backward, there is no rise and fall like the guys.”
Colette Nolin is competing in the first ballroom dance competition in the Show-Me State Games on Saturday. Nolin is refining her technique in an advanced dance class with the Ballroom Dance Academy of Columbia. She has competed and won pro-am dance competitions in her three years of dancing, but this will be her first all-amateur dance competition.
“I just thought it would be a fun event," Nolin said. "It’s only $75 for as many dances as you want to compete in. I love to dance; I dance every single day. I take lessons, practice and go to dances. I find I’m addicted to dancing."
Nolin began dancing three years ago when her kids moved out of the house. With more free time, Nolin says she started taking dance lessons to learn the waltz, something she had wanted to learn since she was a kid. However, after a few lessons she was starved to learn more than just the basics of the dances and moved on to advanced classes.
“You never finally completely learn to dance the waltz. Every time you think you complete it, they add another layer. It’s the same for any of the dances too,” Nolin said.
After a few lessons, Nolin began competing in competitions across the country. Nolin explained that competing in dance competitions is very nerve-wracking, but also very satisfying.
“You’re just scared to death. Your body shakes, you’re extremely nervous, your mouth feels like it’s full of cotton, and you just pray you don’t forget to breathe,” Nolin said.
Dancers are judged on their posture, how they move with their partners, their technique, their timing and their style. The dancers with the lowest scores are eliminated and they are narrowed down to a final three to determine the winners.
“It’s very scary," Nolin said. "Every point of posture and movement is judged, but it’s very fun. I try not so much to compete with other dancers, but do better than the last competition. Of course, it’s always fun to win, though."
Nolin will be competing Saturday with Jonathan Spencer in the American Smooth and American Rhythm dances. They include the fox trot, waltz, cha-cha, rumba and several others. Nolin, who is 50 years old and more than twice the age of Spencer, will be competing in the 18 to 25 age group. Most dance competitors dance with someone in their age group, but the two don’t think it will be a problem.
“It doesn’t really affect us at all. You get used to dancing with people in varying ages,” Spencer said.
Nolin and Spencer both take lessons at the Ballroom Dance Academy, and when the dance instructors found out they both wanted to dance, they paired them up. Despite very little dance experience together, Nolin and Spencer both know the same dances, so there won’t be a steep learning curve.
“We both take lessons from Amanda (Buchana, one of the dance instructors), and we have learned the same dance syllabus, so we both decided in the ninth hour (last minute) to do this,” Nolin said. “There is always a learning curve; you have to get used to the other’s posture and form.”
Spencer and Nolin have been practicing for at least an hour every day this week and say they are as ready as they’ll ever be. However, they don’t know how well they’ll do in the competition.
“You just never know how you’ll do. When you go to competitions you never know whom you’re competing against. Hopefully we do awesome, but it just depends,” Spencer said.
The ballroom dance competition will be held at the Christian Fellowship Church starting at 11 a.m. There is a $5 admission charge.