College Dance Team Central

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Towson Dancers Bring Home Ninth Title

Team wins first place at nationals for 'Dreamgirls' inspired routine
By Brian Stelter
The Towerlight

Tom Cascella, coach of the Towson University Dance Team, knows his attitude is hard to believe.

"It sounds kind of crazy," Cascella said, "but we don't really worry about winning."

His team has been competing in the National Collegiate Championship for 11 straight years.

"In 1997, we went down there to win. And we didn't even make finals. And after that we said we're not going to do what everyone else does. Let's just go to have fun. And that's when we started to win."

They never stopped winning. In 1998, they came in third, and in 1999 they came in first. On Friday, the Dance Team won the national championship for the ninth year in a row.

They competed at the Chick-fil-A National Collegiate Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida. For the second year in a row (and the fourth time since 2002), the team won the grand championship as well, receiving the best score out of every team in every division at the competition.

Marissa Montanez, a senior criminal justice major, said her final time performing at nationals was both exciting and sad.

"It's been a part of my life for such a long time so it's hard to see it end. But it's also kind of refreshing because dance team is a lot of work," Montanez said.

This year's routine was created last year. But in Feb. 2006, "we decided that we didn't like the orchestration of the music, so we threw the routine out and started a new one," Cascella said.

When the movie "Dreamgirls" came out, the team decided that the scrapped routine would work well with the soundtrack from the movie.

"We were crossing our fingers, hoping that no other team would do a 'Dreamgirls' routine," Cascella said.

The team downloaded the soundtrack as soon as it became available on iTunes, and put the music and moves together before Christmas break.

Three songs were chosen: "Move (You're Stepping On My Heart)," "Jimmy's Rap," and "Fake Your Way To The Top."

Dance routines consist of three parts: jazz, hip-hop and pom.

"We usually start with pom because it's our strongest and we like to start with our strongest," Montanez said. "This year we tried to do something different so we started with our jazz section. It was a great opening for the routine."

Hip-hop is usually the team's foremost challenge. The team watched video tapes of James Brown to prepare for the routine.

Cascella said that he thinks the team's unique orchestration is a plus, noting that one of the judges wrote "love the old-school hip-hop" on their evaluation.

"You get here, and you hear 'SexyBack' every two songs," Cascella said. "Folks didn't even know what songs we were doing. It's kind of different so that's what we try to do."

The team spends the weeks before nationals perfecting the routine and cutting it down to a trim two minutes and 15 seconds.

The team arrived in Florida on Wednesday and flew home on Saturday night.

"We don't lay on the beach," Dana Richmond, a sophomore mass communication major, said. "We practice a lot during the day."

The Dance Team performed at preliminaries on Thursday and was one of 12 teams to advance to finals on Friday.

Finals were held at the Daytona Beach Bandshell, in front of hundreds of spectators. Elise Maher, a junior exercise science major, has competed for three years, and "it's still a big rush to get on the stage," Maher said.

Win or lose, Montanez said the team is about more than winning.

"It's about the relationship we have with each other and the time that we spend together, working hard together, being a part of something. It's not all about winning the national title," she said.

In fact, TU's Dance Team may not be back at nationals this time next spring. The team is trying to put together a trip to Europe. The tentative plan has the team traveling to England, France and Germany at the end of March and beginning of April 2008.

In a few weeks, the team will decide whether to skip nationals and commit to the European tour.

"We're all struggling with that decision," Cascella said, describing it as a "let's move on" versus "maybe we should come back to nationals" scenario.

Cascella is also talking to Armed Forces Entertainment about a possible tour.


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