There's something vaguely disconcerting about seeing the professors you know and respect dressed in fancy suits and spangled dresses, whirling around on the dance floor — for the first 10 minutes, you long for the comfort of chalk-dusted blazers and lecture halls.
But at "Dancing With the Profs," hosted Friday night by the Brown Ballroom Dance Team, Assistant Professor of Sociology Nancy Luke danced an enthusiastic jive that not only won the night, but also proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that here at Brown, the professors have got the moves.
"That's what makes it fun. When you first hear the idea of professors dancing, you kind of chuckle a bit," said Joseph Bahlman GS, a senior member of the Ballroom Team. "But it turns into a great show."
"Dancing With the Profs" takes its inspiration from the ABC television show "Dancing with the Stars," but instead of pairing celebrities with professional dancers, the Ballroom Team matches six professors with members of the team.
"Brown's stars are the professors," Bahlman said.
After three months of hard rehearsal, the six pairs danced before a panel of three judges in a packed Alumnae Hall. The night was a result of "blood, sweat and sequins," Chihiro Ikegami '10 told the crowd. Ikegami acted as master of ceremonies with Eva Kolker '10.
Senior Lecturer in Theatre Arts and Performance Studies Julie Strandberg and Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience John Stein, who performed in the first "Dancing with the Profs" two years ago, judged the competition along with the team's coach Russell Monk, who "looks and sounds like the old British guy on ‘Dancing with the Stars,' " Bahlman said. All three judges said they were looking to see teams having fun, and stressed the importance of coordination and teamwork.
The audience certainly had fun, as the dancers seemed determined to keep the judges on their toes. Assistant Professor of Biology Gerwald Jogl began a sedate waltz with Ivana Miao '11 to the tune of "Moon River," but stripped off his tailcoat halfway through to finish the dance with a sassy, modern interpretation of a waltz set to Lady Gaga's "Just Dance."
"If I came into your classroom and I was as good at that as you are at this, I'd be over the moon," Monk said to Jogl in his evaluation of the pair. "If you were a lightbulb, you'd be 120 watts."
Bahlman and Barbara Tannenbaum, senior lecturer in theatre arts and performance studies, also danced a waltz with a twist. Midway through their elegant dance, Tannenbaum ripped off the skirt of her sequined black ballgown to dance in black pants, while Bahlman removed his suit to reveal a glitzy white dress. Tannenbaum then took the lead as the two waltzed to "(You Make me Feel Like) A Natural Woman."
"Brown is a great place!" Tannenbaum said to the audience after the two finished their dance to whoops and cheers from the audience.
"The waltz like I've never seen it before," Monk told Tannenbaum and Bahlman.
But these were not the only teams that took delight in surprising the audience with mid-dance costume changes. Professor of Medicine Jody Rich, who danced with Hilary Treadwell '01, started the night dressed in a doctor's coat and carrying a stethoscope. As the dance began, he took off the coat to dance a sultry samba in a form-fitting black shirt.
Treadwell was clearly an experienced dancer, and the two moved together beautifully. "Your solo will be spoken of," Stein said to Rich when the dance was over.
Stein also complimented John McGeary, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior, on his "suave and sophisticated look" when he danced a jazzy foxtrot with Angela Hua GS.
Professor of Computer Science Pascal van Hentenryck, in a fedora and white socks, and Lan Shiow Tsai '10 danced the cha-cha to Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." While Strandberg praised the pair's "creativity and wonderful sense of humor," Monk said he would have liked to see "a little more ‘cha.' "
In the end it was Luke and her partner Daniel Hackney '12 who stole the show with their spirited jive. Luke looked the part in a flapper dress as Hackney, in a purple blazer, maneuvered her expertly around the floor. The two seemed to be having more fun than anyone else in the room — Luke blew a mid-dance kiss to a wildly applauding audience.
Whether it was the kiss or their fancy footwork that put them over the top, when the night came to an end, the audience voted Luke and Hackney the winning couple.
After her dance was finished, Luke announced that she had something to say to everyone who had stayed home to watch the Winter Olympics. "Eat your heart out!" she shouted, shimmying in her pink-fringed dress.