By Sheila Eppolito
When Charisse Nocera, a sophomore music major from Nahant, joined the Ballroom Dance Club in 2014, there were only a few members.
Since then, a new executive board and an influx of devoted members have, she says, “completely changed the scene, and almost tripled the number of members to 22 while adding a world-class coach, who happens to be my dad.”
Indeed, ballroom dancing is in Charisse’s blood. Her parents, Mark and Dawna Nocera, are former professional dancers who represented the U.S. at the Ballroom Dance World Championships in 1993.
“This team is fantastic, because not only does it keep me active, but it also introduced me to new people.”
As captain of the club, Nocera is in charge of competitions, and is naturally proud of her club, for good reason.
“We’ve done extremely well for the amount of time spent building our team,” says Nocera. “We go to five or six competitions a year, and last year, four couples placed in semifinals or better, and one couple (Ravi Mekala and Nita Vorn) placed seventh out of 90 couples at the Tufts University Ballroom Competition.”
The team of 11 couples practice three times a week at the Campus Recreation Center, and have lessons with Coach Nocera once a week.
For Mekala, a graduate student in applied biotechnology, participating in the club held some surprises.
“People think ballroom is all about slow music and sluggish dancing, which is not so cool,” says Mekala. "But I have seen some awesome ballroom dance styles, like quick step, samba and jive, which definitely break the stereotypes.”
Vorn, a senior chemistry major from Lowell who serves as club secretary, says students should give ballroom a try.
“We are a great team, and we’re very friendly,” she says. “We welcome all majors, abilities, races, genders and ages.”
For club president Rebecca Wayne, a sophomore chemical engineering major from Tyngsboro, participation has had an unexpected benefit.
“This team is fantastic, because not only does it keep me active, but it also introduced me to new people, lets me express myself, and helps me to calm myself when other things get stressful,” she says.
And the fantastic dresses? Nocera says team members often buy them online or at the competitions they attend.
“But sometimes, we get them custom made, because it’s all about creating your own recognizable look on the floor.”