Dancing on The Blocks: A Look At Colorado College’s Ballroom Dancing Adjunct

By Mary Nussbaumer

Professors John Riker and Marcia Dobson may spend most of their day teaching psychoanalysis, ethics, and Greek, but their favorite hobby has always been ballroom dancing — an activity about which they have been passionate ever since they first started dating. When the couple recognized a gap in Colorado College students’ knowledge, as any good professors would, they sought to fill it.  

Photos Courtesy of Colorado College

Though ballroom dancing doesn’t tend to be at the top of CC students’ list of interests, the adjunct remains very popular. Dobson and Riker had so much fun dancing over the years that they decided to spread the joy to their students — and it seems to be working. 

“It’s amazing what happens when people start dancing together,” Dobson said.

 She often sees students grinning from ear to ear. She has also seen many friendships blossom out of the class and more than one couple end up married. She attributed this to the intimate connection that ballroom dancing creates between people.  

While ballroom dancing may seem like an intimidating skill to learn, Dobson assured me that undergraduates tend to learn quickly if they have a good sense of rhythm. She explained that it often only takes about a semester for students to gain proficiency. Once at this level, one may receive the honor of joining Dobson and Riker at a formal dinner dance featuring a live band. Dobson remarked that the only requirement for getting an A in the class, aside from attending a requisite number of lessons, is joining them out dancing. 

Riker and Dobson teach all 15 different types of ballroom dances — of both the smooth and Latin category. Some of these include the cha cha, rumba, foxtrot, waltz, tango and merengue. Latin dancing tends to be done in a small square (which a small dance floor accommodates), while smooth dancing can take up a whole ballroom. 

Dobson has danced her whole life, starting with modern and ballet. She mentioned that she finds ballroom dancing therapeutic in the way that it establishes a relationship of mutual sensitivity and trust with one’s partner. She and Riker have taken lessons for years, so they have seen a range of teaching styles to help perfect their expertise. In fact, the couple have been dancing for so long that they have learned to move as one. Dobson remarked, with a smile, that the couple falls in love all over again every time they dance. 

Once a week for the past two decades, this power couple from the philosophy and classics departments, respectively, has tried to keep the long-held tradition of ballroom dancing alive. Riker and Dobson teach their adjunct on Wednesdays from 3:30-4:30 p.m., though they are taking this semester off. If you want to catch them this spring, they will be helping to teach part of the Dance Fundamentals class during Block 7. 

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