Swing dancing is not the dance of choice for most high schoolers.
But for Catonsville High School juniors Rachel Albert and Hannah Lane, it's more than just a favorite dance — it's a way of life.
Albert and Lane were awarded the school's first Comet Leader Awards Friday, March 15, for their work creating, maintaining and growing the school's first ballroom dance club.
The award is part of the Create section of the school's "Be your best. Do your best. Create the best." initiative.
Catonsville Vice Principal Eric Eiswert said the initiative came about as a way to recognize students in moral, academic and philanthropic categories tied to the "Be", "Do" and "Create" titles, respectively.
Previously, he said, the school's focus was less on emphasizing successes and more on reprimanding wrongdoing.
"We didn't reward kids for doing good things," Eiswert said.
That reward, in the form of a plaque and a Target gift card, caught both Albert and Lane by surprise
The girls had been told to go to the school library early Friday morning, where a crowd that included the vice principal, the club sponsor, several teachers and Albert's parents were waiting.
"We wanted it to be a big deal," Eiswert said.
When Albert and Lane walked into the library, their stunned looks were apparent to everyone.
"I was coming down here wondering what the heck I did," Lane said to the group after the ceremony. "Thank you guys so much."
Lane said the club began after she joined Albert for an open dance night last spring at the Mobtown Ballroom, a dance hall on Washington Boulevard in the Pigtown section of southwest Baltimore.
"We became friends when I took her dancing," said Albert, who frequents Mobtown Ballroom.
The idea to create the club came later in the spring when the two decided they wanted to create a club to promote a more formal, structured style of dancing.
"I went to homecoming and I was kind of grossed out," Albert said. "I thought I would learn to dance for real."
"Doing something other than grinding on someone," Lane added.
"I don't know what's happened to dance," she said. "It's not fun, it's not impressive."
Stumble on first steps
After much collaboration and planning, the duo had their first club meeting in the fall of 2012.
That night, the club nearly ended before it began.
According to them, everything that could go wrong, did.
The speakers for the music didn't work.
There wasn't enough space for a crowd they estimated at 30 students to dance.
Within the first 15 minutes, one of the boys dislocated his knee trying a move and the whole meeting abruptly came to an end.
Lane said that after taking a few weeks off to recollect themselves, they decided to start the club back up again, "even though it was a big fail after the first meeting."
From then on they had a large, steady turnout, sometimes getting as many as 30 students to attend one meeting.
Even the boy who injured his knee at the first meeting has continued to attend.
"We had a huge turnout," Lane said.
Their dedication to the club and passion for dance prompted Eiswert to chose them as the first recipients for the awards.
"Every week, they had a meeting, it got bigger and bigger," Eiswert said.
"They've sustained it. Many clubs are just the flavor of the month," he said.
Their experience making progress even through their hardships teaches a great lesson as well, Eiswert said.
"It teaches leadership. There are going to be bumps in the road," he said.
Both Lane and Albert were honored upon receiving their plaques and are thankful for what dance and the ballroom dance club has provided them.
"I think it's magical what it's done for me," Lane said.
"It is!," Albert said."It's magic."