College Dance Team Central

Saturday, April 28, 2007

UCSD Dance Team Finishes Second Nationally

By Nicky Buchanan
UCSD Guardian

April 26, 2007 — Though the UCSD dance team is mainly seen on campus performing at events like Sun God or Spirit Night and halftime performances at Triton athletics events, it is also a highly competitive squad that has remained ranked in the nation's top 10 Division II dance teams since it started competing in 1998.

This year the Tritons made UCSD history as second-place trophy winners at the National Dance Alliance Nationals April 4 to April 7 in Daytona Beach, Fla. They finished just 0.04 points behind winner Hawaii Pacific University, which also earned first place last year, and 0.02 points ahead of McLennon Community College.

"Getting second place was the best feeling ever," senior co-captain Alison Chaikittirattana said. "We went in as the underdogs not expecting much, so it was so nice to realize that all of our hard work finally paid off and we were being recognized for it too."

The Triton squad began preparing their NDA routine during the summer, when they decided on their SOS-Castaway theme. The theme involved a mixture of three songs, including a remix of "SOS" by the Police, "SOS" by Rhianna and "Message in a Bottle" by Bonnie Tyler.

"Competing against some of the best dance teams in the nation means that everyone is probably at the same level in technique and skills," Chaikittirattana said. "So in order to stand out from the other talented teams, choosing a creative theme that will catch the judges' attention is crucial."

The NDA requires routines to be two and a half minutes in length with at least 30 seconds in the three styles of jazz, hip hop and pom. Since this was the team's first year without a coach and (it is run solely by three co-captains) the choreography of the piece was entirely a group effort. There were some tensions in the beginning of the season in terms of adjusting to the authority of their peers, but the team's thirst for pulling together a great routine for nationals pushed many of these doubts aside.

"Our group of 16 girls demonstrates what self-sufficient means," sophomore Juhi Dudani said. "We take care of everything from finances to costumes, music, workouts, choreography and organizing our performances. We work well together and respect each other and it shows when we perform."

The first opportunity to showcase their routine, aside from school basketball games, was at the USA Nationals on Feb. 11 and 12 in Las Vegas. The team did not make it to the final round, but the girls used the critiques from the judges to take their piece to the next level for Florida.

"We didn't do too well at USA Nationals, but we did get good feedback," freshman Bonnie Chan said. "We added more difficulty, variety and level changes and it really pushed us to work harder."

The team practiced three days a week for two hours each, and held extra practices in the weeks before competition.

"We drilled certain parts over and over again until [we achieved] perfection," Chan said. "It was hard work."

The NDA judging system is rigorous: a fall is a 0.2 deduction and even a "small bobble" like stepping out of turn from the group is a 0.05 deduction. These deductions can make or break a team, considering that the final scores are just hundredths of a point apart.

"[We went] into NDA Nationals confident that we would do well because our routine showcased our abilities better this year than it has in the past," sophomore Karen Liu said.

The Tritons competed against 25 other Division II teams to earn their second-place spot at nationals. The competition was broken up into multiple parts. First, the dancers sent in a videotape that qualified them for 10th place in the competition which began on April 5 with the preliminary round. It was here that the rigorous points system directly affected the UCSD team through a deduction caused by a fall which dropped it from fifth place to ninth going into the final round.

The Tritons performed seventh out of the 15 teams that advanced to the final round, and from then on watched from the winner's circle, their score of 8.98 reigning supreme over the following eight teams until Hawaii Pacific University overcame them with a score of 9.06.

"In dance, you only have less than three minutes to prove yourself," senior co-captain Courtney Delaney said. "We have to be perfect and on right away, otherwise you're in trouble. You only get one try. After McLennon's score was announced and we were higher, it was shocking and we started jumping up and screaming. It was our first second ever, but it felt like first."

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