The 2015 Senior Perspectives is the 10th in a series of annual collections. Senior captains and representatives of teams at Harvard have been invited to contribute viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard.
For a complete listing of 2015 Senior Perspectives,click here.
Leila Hofer, Ballroom Dancing
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Mich.
House Affiliation: Adams
A lot can happen in four years. Since this time in 2011 President Obama got reelected, four seasons of Game of Thrones took over the airwaves, and Harvard beat Yale every time - although that last one is not really a shocker. I am a senior now, and for me, the last four years have been a whirlwind of facts, emotions, papers, p-sets, learning, forgetfulness, and a whole lot of ballroom dance. Like many dancers who passed through the Harvard ballroom team before me, I did not dance before college. Then in college I found ballroom. Dance keeps me physically fit, it takes my mind off other stresses, and allows me to absorb and create music. Dance has given me the community of friends I hold closest, has made me stand up straighter, move more gracefully, and think more critically about the way that my body and movement communicates to others.
Let me elaborate on that first bit about fitness. In high school I used to be a (mediocre) soccer player and trained with the cross-country team in the summer, so exercise was not foreign to me before I joined ballroom. To the skeptics out there, if ballroom isn’t a workout, you’re not working hard enough. As my routines became increasingly demanding, I learned more about what my body was capable of. Currently, in order to keep up the level of intensity my dance partner and I expect of ourselves in our practices and lessons, we have to schedule lifts and sprints multiple times a week, basically whenever we have time among our other practices. My dancing now pushes me to the edges of my physical limit, and the kicker is that the whole time you have to convince the audience that your movements are effortless!
But my love of ballroom goes beyond my personal goals, progress, and understanding, because the ballroom community as a whole is what has made my experience here as special as it was. I have met very few individuals in the ballroom community who, after the first year or two, are still only somewhat interested in ballroom. It is one of the most passionate, driven communities I have ever encountered, and that is regardless of location, education, or background. I have danced in Boston, obviously, and I have met collegiate, amateur, and professional dancers up and down the east coast. I have found teams and studios in my hometown in Michigan when I go back for school breaks, and I have been lucky enough to train with dancers in Beijing as well. Whether I am practicing with dancers in a professional studio or a school hallway - yes, I am thinking of the Science Center basement - these dancers and their passion inspire me.
Thanks to the Harvard ballroom team and the knowledge, support, and friendships that have helped me through these four years, I am now, miraculously, a dancer. Maybe not the best dancer, or even a good one really, but a dancer nonetheless. I don’t know exactly when or how it happened. Maybe the seed was planted with the glamor of the annual “La Classique du Quebec,” a professional ballroom competition that the Harvard team brings its dancers to every year for inspiration. Or maybe it was the hours of lessons and practices late into the night. Or maybe it was that first intro meeting when a couple waltzed effortlessly around the stage in a way I had never seen anyone move before. But however it happened and whatever the reason, dance is part of my life now thanks to HBDT, and I think the dancer in me is here to stay.