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Category is… Ballroom! teaches culture through dance

Collegian | Ava Puglisi
Students learn how to catwalk, and vouge during “The Category is: Ballroom” event on Feb. 6, 2024

With the music booming and good vibes through the roof, Colorado State University students and staff catwalk across the Lory Student Center Theatre, showing their fierceness, confidence and individuality through every strut, vogue pose, dip and spin.

The Black/African American Cultural Center collaborated with the Pride Resource Center and RamEvents to bring the House of Balmain to teach the CSU community about ballroom culture and its importance to Black and queer identities in the Category is… Ballroom! dance class Feb. 15-16.


“It really allows students to come in here and feel the love and feel the warmth and get that understanding from a pure perspective.” –Ashenafi Paulos, third-year CSU student involved in the B/AACC

Torie Balmain and Calypso Jetè Balmain were the leaders, guiding everyone through a series of steps that encompass ballroom dance. They competed in the Max show “Legendary” with the House of Balmain, and they are dedicated to bringing passion, creativity and beauty to the dance floor. Accompanied by dancing, they also taught those at the event about the importance of ballroom culture and its rich history.

The two of them taught attendees how to catwalk across the theater, guiding them through the process of adding more hips into their strut and letting their fiery inner passions be free. From intense model walking to dips, the Balmains encouraged everyone to join in, helping them through the movements and specifically bringing more personal emotion to the steps.

Rafael Duarte recently graduated from CSU and continues to work as a career staff member in close collaboration with B/AACC. He spoke on his thought process behind starting this program and how he wanted to honor the history behind ballroom culture and appreciate the art form to its fullest. He wished for it to be an engaging and educational experience that showcases diverse identities in a positive, valuable light.

“I think it’s just able to highlight and really put forth Black creators and Black artists and people who created this, which were queer people of color,” Duarte said. “One of the beauties of coming to CSU or obtaining higher education is you get the opportunity to meet people outside of your culture.”

Duarte appreciated how willing Torie Balmain and Calypso Jetè Balmain were to come back and reach the CSU community by expressing their passion for ballroom. Everyone who was present looked over in awe and excitement as the two performed powerful pieces dedicated to Black History Month, showcasing how this art form is a part of their identity and sense of self.

While Torie Balmain wore a bright red floral corset with tall red heels, Calypso Jetè Balmain wore a purple leopard-print bikini set with knee-high boots to match. They demonstrated their talent through intense and fluid movement, highlighting their electrifying style. In one of their standout performances, Torie Balmain danced to a song that reflected the African American movement, emphasizing their tenacity and strength.

“They’re just very sweet people that enjoy the community outreach of it all,” Duarte said. “And they’ve kept in touch with many students that have participated in the event last year. I feel like the students and the connections they were able to build were what really brought them back here again.”

Ashenafi Paulos is a junior at CSU and has been involved with B/AACC for almost two years. This was her first time attending the event, and she said she found the experience very enjoyable as students of different races and sexualities could find a place that feels like home, especially at a predominantly white institution.

“(It is meant) to showcase the beauty of ballroom culture and how it impacts both Black and queer history,” Paulos said. “It really allows students to come in here and feel the love and feel the warmth and get that understanding from a pure perspective.”


Adrian Salazar is currently in his fourth year at CSU and is involved in the Pride Resource Center and coordinating the ballroom event. He said he found it inspiring to see how events such as this allow people from different cultural backgrounds to find unique connections. Salazar said he hopes this event will continue to prosper at CSU and bring in more unique voices to the creativity of the ballroom scene.

“It shows a lot of happiness and culture joy that’s being spread through different diverse perspectives,” Salazar said. “When (students) come to CSU, building a community is a very important thing, and events like this defend that those offices deserve to exist.”

Reach Sananda Chandy at or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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