“We Have a Great Space to Dance In”

Michael Rhys

Michelle DiMascio has loads of energy, is cheerful and attractive, and has a willingness to keep on pushing to attain her goals. Michelle is the type of University of Massachusetts Boston student that everyone admires: she works two part-time jobs, goes to classes part time, and is an award-winning dancer who also runs the Ballroom Dancing Club here at UMass Boston.

Michelle, along with her partner, Michael Otero, recently garnered two awards at Dance Sport, in Montreal on Aug. 24 and 25. The team placed first in the 35-plus category, and sixth in the 19-plus age group in Latin Dance.

Michelle competes in “about eight [competitions] a year,” and has been involved in three since April: the MIT Ballroom Dancing Competition; Dancing a la Carte in Conneticutt; and the most recent, Dance Sport in Montreal.

After being involved in a motorcycle accident, which prevented Michelle from dancing from 1999 until this year, she has returned to dancing competitively. “Ballroom dancers should not ride motorcycles,” Michelle jokes now.

Michelle has been a student at UMass Boston for five years and is pursuing an English major with a minor in Dance. She has also worked at UMass Boston for the last three years. She recently transferred to the Continuing Education Department, after previously working in the Biology Department. “I enjoy working here because it’s positive and uplifting; everybody’s pushing you,” Michelle says about UMass Boston.

Michelle also works at Studio 665 in Malden, where she has trained for the last five years, and where she currently studies with instructor Francis Floyd, a UMass Boston alumni. “All kinds of people take classes there,” Michelle says, “from a five-year-old girl to a 70-year-old couple.”

Michelle travels with Studio 665 to national, and international, competitions. Upcoming events include: the Constitution Classic, in Connecticut in Sept., the Yankee Classic in Danvers, in Oct., the Commonwealth Classic in Lowell in Nov., and Championship Ballroom Dance in Ohio in Nov.

“The Yankee Classic is the big one around here, and I’ll probably go to Championship Ballroom Dance next year,” Michelle says.

Besides working two jobs and dancing competitively, Michelle also heads up the Ballroom Dancing Club here at UMass Boston. “It was kind of dormant when I got involved,” Michelle says of the club, noting that membership now usually varies between twenty-five and thirty people. “It’s for people interested in Social Dancing, or who want to train to dance competitively. … It’s for anybody really, no experience necessary, no partner needed; we will train.” Michelle says she tries to have a social outing every week and usually publishes a weekly newsletter.

The club meets in the Creative Room in the Clark Athletic center, and has been a member of the New England College Network (NECN) for the last two years. NECN is a governing body that sets guidelines for dance competitions, from how to run a competition to how much to charge for entry fees. “It’s a great group; it’s been really helpful, and it’s all your peers, all college dancers.”

Last year the club held a collaborative dance here at UMass Boston. “We had a huge show! We had fifteen performances, and people from all over came. It was really amazing, we raised some money, and we had a really great time.”

“UMass Boston has the smallest college dance club in the Boston area but the largest dance space. The Creative Room is gigantic. Some places don’t have mirrors, they don’t have wood floors. They’re dancing on marble floors, in hallways, in classrooms. … We have a great space to dance in. … So I opened our doors and we had all the local colleges together.”

The UMass Boston Ballroom Dance Club will meet once or twice a week and continue to participate in NECN, as well as hold it’s own activities. There will be an open house in Sept. Individuals who are interested in joining the Ballroom Dance Club can also contact Michelle DiMascio at [email protected].