It’s all about finding the perfect partner; that’s true in both ballroom dancing and love. And sometimes, as in the case of Elaine “Elly” Harrington, CCAS BA ’10, and Kumar Jeev, SEAS PhD ’14, ESIA CERT ’14, you find both in the same person.
Elly and Kumar met as members of the GW Ballroom Dancing Team in 2008. Elly came from a family of dancers (her parents were into folk dancing) and wanted to dance, and Kumar, who had danced back in school, was an engineer looking to exercise the left-side of his brain. Assigned as dance partners because of their height, the pair quickly jelled on the ballroom floor, dancing together at competitions in Philadelphia, Ohio, and College Park, Maryland,.
“Ballroom competition is intense and requires a lot of practice,” says Kumar. “We were both very competitive and wanted to be great in competitions, so we started practicing a lot more and spending more time together. Dancing together at the competitions was not as romantic as you might think because you’re always stressed about winning, but that’s what kick started things between us.”
Elly and Kumar soon found themselves spending time together in more social settings outside of competition and practice, but the start to their romance wasn’t quite as smooth as their steps on the dance floor.
“I was the one making moves, trying to take her out to dinners, but she was not getting the signal clearly,” Kumar laughs. “I think it took three months of me making moves before she realized that I was really into her in that way.”
But once the dancing partners realized they both had feelings for each other, things were pretty straightforward for the pair. “Looking back, I think we were surprised that we clicked the way we did, but we did so perfectly,” Kumar says.
In addition to the time spent ballroom dancing together, one of Elly and Kumar’s favorite activities at GW was taking long, late night walks by the reflecting pool from the Lincoln Memorial (Kumar’s favorite monument) to World War II Memorial (Elly’s favorite). The couple remembers rushing down to the WWII Monument several times after studying late into the night to be sure they got there before the fountains turned off at midnight.
The couple also remembers trying to burn through money that was going to expire on Elly’s GWorld Card at the end of the semester by playing game after game of pool at the Hippodrome. By the end, they were so hooked that when Kumar bought a house and they moved in together, the first piece of furniture they bought was a pool table.
After seven years of dating, Elly and Kumar tied the knot last January in India and had a ceremony in California this past June for U.S. friends and family. Kumar says that at times the cultural differences made them wonder if they could make things work, but a specific moment during a trip to Panama for Kumar’s 30th birthday changed that.
Elly and Kumar went on a hike in El Valle de Anton in Panama, not realizing how badly the heavy rains from the day before had washed out the path they were following. Elly was only wearing flip-flops, and the condition of the trail made the journey treacherous. That’s when Elly’s shoe broke and something clicked for Kumar.
“I realized how important she was to me. In that moment, I cared more about her than I cared about myself.” he says. “Our cultural differences and family misgivings didn’t matter. All else became immaterial, and I knew that she was the one for me.”
—W. Gray Turner