College Dance Team Central

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Panther Athletes Remain Unrecognized

By Tim McCue
The Northern Iowan

Last Monday at the McLeod Center, the lights were on, the music was loud and the athletes were on the floor.

But there was no one watching.

Practicing in relative obscurity is nothing new for the University of Northern Iowa dance team.

Despite their recent fifth place finish at the Universal Collegiate Dance Association Championships, the highest finish of any Missouri Valley Conference team, the team is still seen as “the cheerleaders with shiny poms” or “the girls who sit next to TC,” UNI’s mascot.

Most spectators have come to expect to see the dancers take the floor during timeouts and halftimes at various Panther athletic events. The precision it takes to get 12 elite athletes performing in unison doesn’t happen by accident.

The team has two three-hour practices each week focused specifically on perfecting various routines. It also spends additional time outside of practicing doing strength and aerobic conditioning in order to deal with a hectic schedule.

During the basketball season, the dance team performs at every home game for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The dancers are required to be at every game 90 minutes before tip-off because they have to warm up before the teams are ready to take the floor.

During football season, the dancers show up even earlier in order to socialize with tailgating fans before games.

“It would be impossible to do what we do if our hearts weren’t in it, and we didn’t care about what we were doing,” said senior Morgan Havlicek, a four-year member of the team.

Nate Clayberg, UNI athletic sales coordinator who oversees the dance team, said he is impressed with the squad’s maturity, especially in light of the fact that the team has gone two years without a coach.

“The girls all know what they want and they’re willing to do what they need to in order to make their goals a reality,” Clayberg said.

Clayberg said he is impressed with how self-motivated the team is when it comes to fundraising and being active in the community.

Many of UNI’s dancers have been dancing for at least 15 years. They have decided to continue dancing at the college level simply because they enjoy it despite the hardships involved. Members of the team receive no scholarship money and they have to fundraise to cover many of their expenses

Senior Kim Gladson has been on the team since she was a freshman. She said the team continually fights the perception that dancers aren’t real athletes. She pointed to the fact that team members routinely spent six hours per day working out and perfecting their routine before nationals in January.

When creating routines the team takes a group approach. There is a choreography committee that puts together material. Team members also develop choreography skills by helping high school teams choreograph their routines, something the UNI dancers typically do as a fundraiser.

Like any athletic veteran leadership and individual talents help create the team dynamic. This year there are five seniors on the team, all of whom are getting ready to take the floor for the final time tomorrow during the UNI women’s basketball game against Missouri State.

Gladson said the addition of a talented core of freshman has helped this year’s team implement more challenging routines, just like a veteran basketball team running a more complex offense.

Camaraderie makes a difference for team members.

“ All of my best friends are on the team,” Havlicek said. “Whom else would I hang out with if we weren’t together?”

Success is just important to these panthers as any team that wears the purple and gold.

“ We take pride in what we do every time we take the floor,” said Sierra Vander Helm a sophomore member of the squad. “We pay attention to detail because we know what it takes to be successful and everybody on the team is committed and wants to be successful.”

Team members agreed that to be successful as a college dancer takes drive and commitment.

“ To be a successful dancer and put in you have to be at least a little of a perfectionist,”

Gladson said after the team rehearsed Saturday’s routine for almost the twentieth time.

“There are times I try falling asleep at night and end up rehearsing routines in my head,”she added. “Sometimes it keeps me up later but at least I know what I’m doing when I go to practice the next day.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

OSU Dance Team Will Kick It Up At Nationals

By Erika Gee
Issue date: 2/20/07
The Lantern

This year, Ohio State's Dance Team is frozen: that's the theme of OSU's routine for this year's Nationals competition.

The choreographer for Stephen F. Austin State University and instructor for National Dance Alliance, T.J. Maple, came to teach the routine to OSU's dance team.

While dancing to Madonna's "Frozen," the dancers were dripping with sweat, muscles fatigued and sore as they kept up with Maple for an intense two-day session.

Heading to NDA nationals in Daytona Beach, Fla., March 4-8, the team hopes to better its 8th place rank from last year.

The women must compete against each other for a spot in the routine. The team was whittled down from 22 to 16 members with six alternates in case of injury or simply not being able to keep up, coach Natalie Lopez said.

"Auditions for nationals are always very intense because we train all year to dance as one and then we have to compete against our friends," said Jenny Webster, secretary of the team.

Combining jazz, pom-pom and hip-hop dance into a high-energy number is difficult. This year, however, coaches say everyone can handle the load.

"This year everyone's strong," Lopez said.

"T.J. was asking us, 'who are your good turners,' and we were like, actually, everyone," coach Erin Binau said.

OSU's dance team this year is definitely more talented than last year's team, Maple said.

Still, team members say it will be a challenge to perfect this routine.

"You can never do his dances the day you learn them... he plans it that way so that we are challenged and work hard enough so that when Nationals roll around, we are even more proud of what we've accomplished that season," team captain Amanda Parker said.

To clean the routine to perfection, the dancers will skip out on Spring Break and endure hell week, which includes eight hours of rehearsal for five days straight.

"It's like, intense," Lopez said.

Currently, the team practices three days a week and does cardio and weight-lifting in groups on off-days. They are preparing to compete against last year's 2nd place winner, The University of Louisville, and 1st place winner, Brigham Young University.

"At Brigham Young, they're all dance majors," Binau said.

With Maple's choreography, the team members said they are hopeful.

"T.J. always comes up with great visuals. He is also a judge for the company with which we are competing, so he brings that perspective with him when he creates our routines," Parker said.

The team is not funded through the school, doesn't dance at football games and instead watches as other schools' teams perform at Ohio Stadium. These are the hardships Webster said the team faces.

She also said the team is a strong, talented team that is respected at nationals.

Although it is "heartbreaking to see another dance team on your own school's field," Webster said she is excited to perform and compete for her last time.

Brittany Babb, a freshman on the team, said she thinks the routine will do well at nationals.

"We are a very strong team and we can make this routine something to remember and something that is worth an award," Babb said. "Right now it's hard but it will get easier."

The team members will forego some things, including in a normal college life, to be top-notch in Daytona. They said it is worth it.

"You give up going out, sleeping in, your weekends, your spring break... but you gain a family," Parker said.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Dance Knights to Premiere February 12th

PISCATAWAY, NJ - "Dance Knights," an original documentary series that follows the Rutgers University Dance Team on the road to the 2007 National Dance Championships, will premiere on Monday, February 12th. The show will air on the internet in small installments Monday through Friday, which by week's end, will complete a half-hour episode.

The show will feature the team at football games, basketball games, special events, practice, and behind the scenes in their daily lives, showcasing the more than 150 years of combined dance training of the 16 members of the Rutgers University Dance Team.

The team won the national championship in 1998 under head Coach Christine Zoffinger, and has placed in the top 5 every year since then, coming just short of the title several times. Watch as this perennial underdog looks to take back the crown this year.

View the trailer now at, and be sure to bookmark the site to catch the premiere episode on Monday, February 12th.

Friday, February 09, 2007

SHU Dance Team 'One Big Family'

By Mike Barrett
The Spectrum

As a fellow athlete, I know what the support of a great crowd can do for a team and how uplifting it can be. As an active member of the Red Wave, I have seen that one group of people is always right next to me, cheering their hardest for their beloved Pioneers.

Flashing their million dollar smiles and moves, this talented group of ladies has caught the attention of all of the Pioneer's fans.

Yes, I am talking about Sacred Heart's very own dance team.

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with some of the team's members to find out what the team is all about.

Considered a club and not an actual team, the dance team is one of the few teams that is in season all year round. With pre-season starting in August and tryouts and practices running until the end of spring semester, the team has some of the most dedicated and hard working students at Sacred Heart.

"Being a club and not a team, much of our funding for our trips and uniforms has to come out of our own pockets or through fundraising," said team captain Jackie Stephens, a junior and native of Ridgefield Park, N.J.

" Our last fundraiser was a dance-a-thon that raised us some money for nationals. We hired a DJ and danced for over two hours, earning money for the team along the way," said Stephens.

The team also donated a portion of the earnings to the House of Roses foundation, a non-profit organization that teaches under privileged children the art of dance.

With a roster of about 34 dancers, the team performs year round at home football and basketball games and also dances at some open houses for the university.

"I saw the team dance at an open house, and tried out this past October," said freshman Kate Poole of Torrington.

This group of dancers is made up of girls who have danced all their lives and planned on doing so in college.

"I have danced for 18 years now and I knew I wasn't going to go to a university that didn't have a dance team," said junior Meghan Duckworth of Cumberland R.I.

The dance team is the main reason why I applied to and came to Sacred Heart," said junior Andrea Davenport of Kings Park, N.Y.

Each routine that the team performs is generally a dance that is put together by the team's own members.

"Over the summer, we try and come up with new routines on our own and put them together when we all meet. All our routines are all thought up by two or three of our own girls," said Stephens.

Aside from the team performing on campus, there is also the competition aspect for the team. Each year, a competition squad of about 14 members of the team travel to Daytona Fla. for nationals. This competition squad highlights a years worth of hard work for the team.

"One of the best part about this team isn't just the competition, it's the fact that this team is like one big family," said Duckworth.

So come this weekend when the student body Packs the Pitt, be prepared for a real treat when you these ladies take the floor and show you how all their hard work and dedication has paid off.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Breaking The Stereotype of Dancers

Feature on former Syracuse Dance Team member Alexis Heos

By David Ertischek
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Roslindale West Roxbury Transcript

Alexis Heos isn’t just about shaking her tail feathers to hip-hop music as a member of the inaugural Boston Celtics dance team. Just like the old adage says — don’t judge a book by its cover, because after a couple of seconds with Heos, you’ll find that stereotyping her as “just a dancer” will make you look like a fool.

Currently the 24-year-old Roslindale resident works for the state in the Division of Banks working on the regulation of banks. The Syracuse graduate, who minored in Mandarin Chinese, is often traveling around Massachusetts going from site to site from bank-to-bank, making sure they’re following banking laws and regulations.

And as Heos points out, “Bankers aren’t the most exciting people.”

But then comes her part-time job as one of 21 Celtics team dancers (don’t call ’em cheerleaders), of which only 15 dance every Celtics home game. Now that’s exciting for Alexis.

Whether it’s strutting out on the basketball court in jeans, short shorts or spandex, Heos has a radiant smile all ready to go with her dance moves.

“I did it in college [on the Syracuse dance team]. It was just one of those things. I wanted to audition,” said Heos, whose last name means sunrise in Greek. Heos was captain of Syracuse’s team her senior year before she moved back to Rozzie, where she grew up and attended the Boston Latin School.

After the Celtics announced they were having auditions, hundreds of women tried out last June. The following month at Foxwoods Casino, the Celtics held a huge public relations affair to announce the members of the team.

“I don’t remember it,” said Heos. “It was a big pageant show. I just wanted to scream and cry. It was just a rush.”

She said she remembers seeing her parents jumping up and down, as well as her 21-year-old brother, Christopher, who was especially happy that his sister was on the Celtics dance team. Alexis said that on her birthday, Christopher gave her a schedule for the Celtics’ upcoming 2006-07 season with all of the games that he wanted to attend. Only two were not circled — the two dates that he had college final exams.

Unfortunately for Christopher, Alexis doesn’t get a whole lot of perks from being a dancer.

“Let’s just say I won’t be quitting my day job anytime soon. However, I’d do it for free. There is nothing like performing in front of my hometown crowd,” said Heos, the only Celtics team dancer who grew up in Boston.

But while Alexis would love to keep on dancing for the Celtics, who knows how long she’s going to be stateside. She’s currently drawing up her thesis for her master’s degree in public policy and international relations at UMass-Boston.

And Heos has big goals on the horizon.
“I would really like to work at an embassy abroad,” she said, particularly in state government or economic affairs.

The beautiful brunette is building quite the foreign language repertoire for future embassy employers. Heos grew up speaking Greek in her home, learned Spanish while attending Boston Latin, learned Mandarin Chinese in college and decided to pick up Farsi, the most widely spoken Persian language, which she said is more difficult to learn than Chinese.

When she’s not working on her Farsi or working at mortgage companies, Heos is putting in three days a week of team dancing. Each practice runs for three hours.

“Usually we are in the gym every day regardless of practice — with the exception of game days, of course. [And] three hours before each game, we set and run through our routines on the court,” said Heos. “It’s one of those part-time/full-time commitment deals. The way I tend to sum the whole experience up when people ask the very general question ‘How is the Celtics thing going?’ is to say, ‘I’m exhausted, I’m sore, I’m busier than ever, and I wouldn’t change a thing’.”

During the practices, the team works on routines to hip-hop, jazz and theatrical songs. The team has a dance choreographer, a welcomed aspect compared to her Syracuse dance team, for which she and other dancers needed to come up with their own routines. As an Orangeman dancer, the team also needed to fund raise so they could attend competitions. On the other side of the spectrum, the Celtics dance team has a public relations handler for press queries.

But when there’s some off time, don’t expect to see any of the dancers around the Celtics players. That’s a definite no-no, which has been implored to the dancers.

“We don’t actually talk to them. At most, we get run into them during practice,” said Heos, adding that she recently got whacked in the face by a Celtic while she was practicing.

But the no-socializing-with-the-players rule is fine by Heos, who has a long-term boyfriend that she met on the frozen tundra of Syracuse University.

And no matter where Heos ends up, whether it’s at some foreign embassy or any other city, she’ll never forget where she came from.

Heos smiles as she talks about growing up in Roslindale and dancing at one of the local studios.

So when she’s in China or in the Persian Gulf helping a foreign dignitary with working out some billion-dollar transaction, Heos will be able to recall when 20,000 Celtics fans screamed for her while she danced to “All That Jazz.”