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 September 2005 People

Cha Cha Cha!

If ASTM International should ever decide to form a committee on competitive ballroom dancing (which is highly doubtful, but an intriguing idea nonetheless), Theresa Weston would be the perfect person to chair it. As an ASTM International member who has been involved in competitive ballroom dancing “for more years than I’d like to admit,” Weston is in the unique position of knowing both the difference between a test method and a specification, as well as the difference between a cha cha and a rumba.

Weston, who has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and is a senior research associate in the building science research and product development area at DuPont Building Innovations in Richmond, Va., dances in as many as 10 competitive events across the United States and Canada each year. Competing at the pro/am level, Weston, an amateur, dances with Ian Gillett, her professional dance instructor, in two different categories: International Standard and International Latin. Dances that fall into the International Standard category include waltz, slow foxtrot, Viennese waltz, international tango and quickstep. International Latin dances are the cha cha, rumba, paso doble, samba, and jive.

While having the moves down is critical, Weston says there is a certain level of mystery and improvisation that keeps dancers both literally and figuratively on their toes at a competition. “While there are standardized beats and rhythms for each dance, you don’t know the exact music you’re going to dance to until you walk out on the floor,” says Weston. “You have to interpret the music in that moment on the dance floor.” It’s hard for Weston to decide which type of dance is her favorite. “I’m best at waltz and fox trot, but I also have fun with tango, cha cha and samba,” she says. “Those dances have attitude and I really like the Latin music.”

Because it’s a physical activity that involves her aesthetic senses and music, Weston says ballroom dancing is a great change of pace from her daily work life. “Much of my work is scientific and analytical, so dancing allows me to access a different part of my personality and mind,” notes Weston.

“Moving with music is something people like to do, but their inhibitions often get in the way,” says Weston, who believes this is why a recent American reality television show that matched professional ballroom dancers with non-professional celebrities was so popular. “People liked watching Dancing with the Stars because the dancers looked like they were really enjoying it and viewers like watching people have fun, as opposed to eating bugs or doing other humiliating things.”

Weston joined ASTM International in 1995 and has been extensively involved in four subcommittees of Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings. She has chaired task groups on durability of air barriers and water resistant barriers within Subcommittee E06.22 on Durability Performance of Building Constructions; is working on a specification for water-resistant barriers under E06.55 on Exterior Building Wall Systems; has contributed to the development of standard E 2112, Practice for Installation of Exterior Windows, Doors and Skylights within E06.51 on Performance of Windows, Doors, Skylights and Curtain Walls; and will become chair of Subcommittee E06.41 on Air Leakage and Ventilation Performance at the October committee meeting.

Weston was also one of the co-chairs of the E06 Symposium on Performance Durability of Window-Wall Interface, which occurred during the April 2004 ASTM Committee Week in Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition to her E06 activities, Weston is a member of Committee C11 on Gypsum and Related Building Materials and Systems and Committee C16 on Thermal Insulation.

“I enjoy seeing people come together and develop ideas,” says Weston of her ASTM activities. “When the process is working right, you develop a better document and way to do things by integrating the ideas of a bunch of different people.” Weston also says that she likes being part of a community and notes that the social aspects of both ASTM committees and ballroom dancing competitions, while not exactly similar, are each quite enjoyable.

Maybe there is something to that Committee on Competitive Ballroom Dancing idea after all.

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