Dance Like Shnol-one’s Watching

Junior elevates hobby to life-time passion


submitted by Zach Shnol

Zachary Shnol and his partner give fierce looks to the judges while on the dance floor. After tough competition, they came home with the first place title.

On the day of the biggest competition of the year, the band looks up to see a missing drum major. Battling his own feats, junior Zachary Shnol competes in Dallas, coming home with 1st place using the talents of a different kind of hobby, competitive ballroom dancing.

What started out as a simple pastime at only 10-years-old, Shnol now takes his talent to the floor and his efforts have lead to awards and competitions consistently.

“I did karate and hated it, so I took a break. The gym dance studio opened up, and we passed by it one day and we just went in and that’s just how it started,” Snhol said.

Starting in beginner classes, Shnol quickly moved up and stood out among his peers preparing him to be assigned a partner and to compete.

“I wasn’t in [beginner classes] that long because I got a partner shortly after, so it was only a few months before I started dancing with my partner,” Shnol said. “They could be someone you choose, but it just so happened that there were just two people in the class who really wanted to compete.”

Transitioning from more than a hobby, Shnol now spends most of his dancing career at competitions.

“There’s something called NDCA, National Dance Council of America. Each country has their own national dance council all dancers are registered through,” Shnol said. “There’s like a competition almost every weekend with any state or city if you want to do it. You register yourself, pick whatever song, type of dance, then you go and compete against people who signed up with the same thing you did.”

With the competition being so intense, Shnol must implement more logical strategies into his performances.

“If it’s an old judge, I know they’re looking at the footwork, but if it’s a new judge, I know they’re looking at how much fun you’re having so that’s how you kind of like know what to focus on whenever you’re dancing,” Shnol said.

Now, Shnol uses his long-time experience to become a staple on the dance floor, using more of his focus on a confident stride.

“Whenever I’m dancing, all I’m thinking about is the counting, and I’m thinking about my surroundings, so I don’t bump into someone because it has happened before,” he said. “When I was in Chicago competing for my first huge competition, we were all crammed on the floor, and there were three couples my age right next to me. Since they’re competing, they could sense when someone is scared and looking small, so they used that to their advantage and took my space up.”

Throughout the week after school, Shnol spends his time practicing and preparing for upcoming contests and events. On top of that, he works part-time at the studio instructing classes and teaching others.

“In my sophomore year, I taught a Latin dance class here at Oak after school one day that was free to everyone,” Shnol said. “I just wanted to do it so I could share my passion with others and allow them to see some insight into the world of ballroom dance.”

Shnol specializes in Latin-styled dances, a branch of Ballroom Dancing distinguished by its formality, pace and mood.

“At the end of my freshman year, the dance company did their end of the year show, and Mrs. Curry knows that I dance, and she invited me and my partner to come and do a dance at the showcase,” Shnol said. “Once it ended, we started talking, and she said that she always wanted to start Ballroom dancing at Oak. I emailed her once school started, and I suggested a little dance class session. She was for it, so we did one free Cha Cha class, and it went really well.”

Shnol’s first journey of teaching seemed a success through the world of Cha Cha, a Cuban-style of dance known for its quick and sharp moves.

“It won’t be a career, but it’s something that’s a fun hobby,” Shnol said. “Dance will always stick with me.”