Ballroom Dance Team Shines At Event

Pam Roberts is taking extra care in preparing the Virginia Peninsula Community College ballroom dance team for its most prestigious event of the season, BAM Jam.

“That’s a really big one to end on,” Roberts said of the national competition at the University of Maryland on March 30.

With just one dancer returning from last year’s team, the squad doesn’t have much experience. Roberts targeted the Carolina DanceSport Open at North Carolina State University on Feb. 3 as the perfect warm-up event.

“I wanted them to get more experience before they went to Maryland,” she said, adding a smaller event was the goal. “Although this one wasn’t really that much smaller.”

She had no need to worry as the Gators took home 10 awards in a variety of dances and divisions. The team dominated in the rumba event in the Latin Newcomer division, led by partners Zsofi Raborn and Emmanual Watkins, who came in first. Lawren Speight finished third, Victoria Feliciano fifth and Claire Canniff sixth in the same event. (Speight, Feliciano and Canniff had “guest” partners from Christopher Newport University who weren’t judged in the division.)

In the rhythm newcomer division, Raborn and Watkins also placed second in rumba and swing, and third in the cha-cha. Speight placed third in jive.

“I am so proud of the team,” said Roberts, who is a coach and adviser. “They've worked very hard and have accomplished so much in such little time.”

The team, which has been practicing since the start of the fall semester, usually has a competition in November, but Roberts skipped that this year.

“We were not ready to go to nationals in November at all,” she said, noting the only returning dancer was Speight.

Roberts said in some ways she was surprised by the results and in some ways she wasn’t.

“They’ve been training really hard. We’ve been drilling technique,” she said, giving credit to fellow coaches Riccardo Pacini and J.D. Ellis. “We just have a really good coaching staff.”

That work paid off.

“The head judge who was running the competition actually came down and complimented us on our technique,” Roberts said.

Roberts also said the judge was surprised to hear most of the VPCC members had been dancing for only a few months.

The competition was an “open” event, which meant in addition to competing against other colleges, VPCC had to go against dance schools, as well. As usual, VPCC was the only community college participating.

“The whole team just got a lot of compliments from this judging staff, their technique and how poised they were,” Roberts said.

Roberts is confident her team is ready for BAM Jam next month.

“Everyone placed in at least one of their dances, which is awesome considering this was everyone’s first competition except for Lawren,” Roberts said. “It’s great when everyone brings home at least one ribbon.”

For more information on VPCC’s ballroom dance team, visit