College Dance Team Central

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

MSU Dance Team Allows Incoming Freshmen To Audition For 1st Time

New steps

The State News

Beneath the large garage doors backstage in the Breslin Center, Nicole Mancuso restarted Aerosmith's song "Dream On" on her iPod and began practicing a dance routine again.

With intense concentration, the communication freshman punched her arms outward before throwing her body into a graceful spin on tiptoe to the music as she and 26 other women warmed up for the MSU Dance Team tryouts last week.

Moments later, each would perform before a panel of judges at center court.

Each would have a chance to dance alongside others, and, finally, by themselves.

"I've done everything I can, so hopefully I have a good one," Mancuso said before the tryouts began.

It was the second round of tryouts hosted by the student-managed MSU Dance Team, an about 15-member team that has performed routines to music at all football and men's basketball games and some special events for four seasons, team captains Jennifer Chiroyan and Justine Richards said.

The team has no coach, no official choreographer, no home-practice area and no official sponsor to send them away to competition, although it does receive money for uniforms and training camps from the athletic department, Richards said.

Captains and current team members managed the tryouts and gave team-hopefuls a day to learn two routines and a day to practice before putting each dancer to the test.

This year was the first time incoming freshmen were able to audition for the team.

"It's very stressful," Chiroyan said. "Freshmen are coming from the studio when their training is the hardest, there are a lot of girls you're not familiar with and there are time constraints to learn such a difficult routine."

Last Tuesday, team-hopefuls scrutinized and mimicked each twist and movement of team members who taught "8-count" pieces of the dance. By Wednesday, the dancers had committed the routine to memory and practiced it in its entirety while seasoned members watched, critiqued and restarted the music to begin again.

Thursday was crunch time.

It was tiring, but nothing the dancers said they hadn't experienced before.

Most had at least 10 years of training in jazz, lyrical or ballet dancing. Elementary education sophomore Jill Tremonti, 20, said she had spent 18 years in the studio and the tryouts were the familiar grind.

"You're on your feet, you're learning new material and learning to adapt to someone's style is always difficult," Tremonti said. "You do it over and over again, and getting technique right can be tiring."

For members, the dance team comes second only to education, Richards said.

"If you have work, get it off. If you have plans, break them," Richards said. "It's the dance team first. Class is the only exception."

But even with dedication and talent, the team has never won nationals and will have a difficult time ever getting to that level without having scholarships and direction from a professional coach and choreographer, she said.

Completing her tryout Thursday, hospitality business sophomore Jessica Cummins was performing familiar dances.

Cummins was on the team last year, but was auditioning again because each member must earn a spot back for the second time before solidifying a spot on the team.

"I'd really like to get a coach," Cummins said. "When it comes to nationals, it would help us to have a coach like other teams."

Stepping up to perform her solo tryout, Cummins held a smile and performed a series of leaps and spins with seeming ease before leaving the gym.

"It's pretty intense, more so than last year because with incoming freshman being allowed, so there are more girls straight out of the studio," Cummins said. "I did the best I could do and I had no regrets."


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