At the U.S. Ballroom Championships in BYU's Marriott Center in March, they could have danced all night . . . and they'll be dancing here for a decade. Provo has been chosen as the location of the prestigious professional championships for the next 10 years, making BYU the first university to host a major national ballroom competition.
Although BYU had been the host of the U.S. National Junior Championships for two years, the school had never hosted the professional championships, which were held in Miami. But BYU's enthusiastic crowd and large event center lured the competition to Provo.
John Kimmins, president of the American Ballroom Company and co-host of the event, had been to BYU many times and was instrumental in bringing the professional competition to Utah.
"Kimmins was impressed with the university for a couple of reasons: He really liked the venue of the Marriott Center because its seating capacity is so large. He was impressed with the number of spectators we had coming out to our junior ballroom championships and the number of youth we had competing, and he was impressed with the organization of Brigham Young University and how we ran our championships," said Claudia Hill, BYU's ballroom dance promotional director.
The crowds at the Marriott Center for the March championship were numbered at 6,000, far exceeding the 1,000 that usually attended the competition in Miami. One of the reasons for this, Hill said, is that BYU is able to offer many more tickets at a lower price, thereby involving the whole community in the event.
"This is the ideal location for these championships," Kimmins said before the event. "The professional couples will especially appreciate the chance to dance before what will easily be the largest audience for any dance competition in the United States."
Both old and young danced around the clock, drawing competitors from all over the United States for the championships.
"We had a great response from the competitors," said Lee Wakefield, director of BYU's ballroom dance division and the other co-host of the event. "We were thrilled with the participation."
Most of the approximately 2,000 youth competitors were from Utah, Idaho, and California.
The home states of the 30 professional competitors who attended were more diverse, with most coming from the East and West Coasts.
Although the contract for the competition is only for the next decade, Hill said she expects that the competition will remain at BYU. "Leaders of the American Ballroom Company were so pleased that they talked about offering a few more of the national titles here," Hill said. "They seemed to be pleased with the arrangement."