College Dance Team Central

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

UST Dance Team Wins Second National Championship

By Alysia Anderson, UST Dance Team coach
Bulletin News

It seemed nothing could stop the University of St. Thomas Dance Team from accomplishing its goals. Just getting to Orlando, Fla., for the National College Cheerleading and Dance Team Championships was a challenge. Although the team already had secured a No. 1 seed going into the Jan. 19-20 competition, major airport delays and inclement weather took their toll on its plans.

The original itinerary had all members of the team traveling together, but a canceled flight meant the team would have to split up to get to the championships on time. I had to rebook our tickets and sent the team to Orlando on seven different flights – through Salt Lake City, Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia, Newark, Atlanta and Tampa. Nearly 20 hours after we had met at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, everyone arrived in Orlando safe and sound. They were real troupers.

Despite the glitch in travel plans, the team’s spirit and determination didn’t miss a beat. I think all of the drama with the flights helped us to realize how much we truly enjoy being together. It brought us closer as friends and teammates. The team had one last rehearsal on Friday, the day before the competition began. At this point it wasn’t so much about drilling the actual moves in the routine; we focused instead on the performance aspect and the emotional connection to the music. We knew other teams would have strong performances so I knew the artistic details would set us apart.

The team had strong performances in the semifinal round, moving it into the finals confident and hungry. I think our ranking after semifinals was exactly what we needed. We had scores that put us in the top four in both jazz and hip-hop, but not quite on top. There was room for improvement in both, and we knew it was going to be a tight race to the finish. Entering finals, our goal was not necessarily to win, but to have the best performance possible. I always stressed to the team that a trophy was just plastic – it can be replicated and won’t last forever – but the feeling of knowing we had our best performance possible with no regrets will last forever.

Weather again became a factor, moving the final round of hip-hop to a later time in a different venue. When you are so focused in competition, having such a dramatic change in your surroundings can be a real distraction. Luckily, the team was able to relax and refuel before taking the floor for hip-hop finals. When they ended, St. Thomas had closed the gap and moved up two places from the semifinal round for a strong second-place finish.

The next day the team switched gears for the jazz finals. Jazz is a completely different state of mind than hip-hop, so the preparation before taking the floor was crucial. The team stretched and visualized the routine, then gathered for a last bit of inspiration. Our choreographer, Karl Mundt, recently had lost his mother and that day was her birthday. We decided to dedicate the performance to her memory.

The final performance was amazing, as the team danced with open hearts and open minds. Awards didn’t seem to matter. Even finishing in the top 10 would have felt like an accomplishment. But once again, the Tommies moved up two places from the semifinal round! They had become the 2008 national champions.

The 2008 National College Cheerleading and Dance Team Championships will be nationally televised on ESPN and ESPN2. Air dates will be announced.

Many thanks and congratulations to the St. Thomas Dance Team: Captains Stacey Koesters, Lisa Orth and Pam Sylvestre, junior Sarah Akin, sophomores Jackie Berling, Malorie Booth, Noelle Fabian, Jackie Kling, Jessica Larson and Kristin Seifert, and freshmen Dani Blackowiak, Rachel Chadima, Cate Lehman, Miranda Mulligan, Danielle Olson and Amanda Renz.

Titan Dance Sweeps National Championships

After long practices, team wins both jazz, hip-hop divisions

By: Eric Bartolome
The Daily Titan

The Cal State Fullerton Dance Team took first place at the Universal Dance Association National Championship earlier this month, an annual competition held in Orlando, Florida that features hundreds of cheer and dance squads from the United States and Puerto Rico.

The CSUF dancers swept the competition, taking first place in both the jazz and hip-hop divisions. In the jazz finals, CSUF gave a winning performance dancing to an acapella version of "Son of a Preacher Man."

To win the hip-hop division, the Titans gave a playful, entertaining set, as they danced to a medley of recent radio hits. Exuding character and creativity, the team set themselves apart from the rest of the competition.

The Titans finished above the 2007 Hip Hop champs, the University of Illinois-Chicago, which came in second at this year's event. Big West Rival UC Davis also competed and placed 6th in the Hip Hop division.

In the jazz division, the Titans topped their Big West rivals Long Beach State, which finished in second place. Idaho State University came in third, while North Dakota University finished in fourth place.

"[The competition] was really good," said junior Captain Kenndra Alvarez. "In prelims we finished in first, so that pumped us up 110 percent. Our rivals, Long Beach, finished in second, only 4.5 points behind us, so that really got us pumped up. [In] finals, we went out there and gave it everything we got."

Judges scored the performances based on appearance, choreography and execution. In order to enter the competition, each team was required to send a video audition. After being selected, each school performed in a semifinal round from which teams were chosen to perform in the finals.

Coaches Sam Shen and Jennie Volkert, both CSUF alumni, have led the team for the last decade. Under their leadership, the CSUF dance team has taken first place in the jazz division eight of the last nine years. The coaches said they attribute the team's success over the years to consistency, work ethic and a family dynamic.

"It's amazing. Every year it gets harder and harder because everybody wants to beat us," said Volkert. "It just makes us that more difficult for our girls to step it up and be flawless. They can't go on the floor and leave any doubt."

Standard practice for the team is usually three times a week, but leading up to the competition, the team practiced three hours every day.

"It was a lot of work because we practiced either really early or really late, but it was definitely worth it," said freshman Sarah Ellman.

This year the Titan Spirit Squad has five new freshman, two sophomores, four juniors and only one returning senior, Jessica Mika Mitsui.

While many of this year's dancers are local products, others have come from all over the nation. In order to make the team, the dancers go through a three-step process where they perform before a panel of judges.

"The team is very talented," said Shen. "They're all elite dancers."

Next year, Alvarez said she hopes the Titan dance team can repeat their success defending their national title.

"It's hard walking in there. All the teams are after us because they want to steal our title," said Alvarez. "We're coming back each year with the intention of bringing home the title."

CSB Dance Team Takes Second At Nationals

Imagine the New York Giants or the New England Patriots football teams trying to win the Super Bowl without a coach, or a top flight movie winning an Academy Award without a director.

Sound impossible? It can be done – just ask the College of Saint Benedict dance team.

The CSB national team, one of two dance teams at CSB, finished second at the United Dance Association’s National Open Division meet Jan. 19-20 at Orlando, Fla.

Saint Benedict finished with 721.5 points, one point behind division champion the University of St. Thomas. Orange Coast (Calif.) College was third, with 716 points.

It was the top finish by the CSB team at the meet, topping its fourth-place finish in 2007. The team does not have a full-time coach or a full-time choreographer.

The team was pre-seeded seventh going into the competition.

“We knew we had the potential to move up,” said CSB senior Ali Jacobson, one of three captains on the team. “It kind of left us in the underdog role, which was a good place to be. We knew we had a lot of work to do, but we could move up.”

The team did exactly that, moving up to second following the semifinals on Jan. 19. A total of 13 teams advanced to the final on Jan. 20, and CSB finished second. The CSB team dance performed the same routine each day, to the Whitney Houston song “Fine.”

“When we found out we were second, it was so nice,” Jacobson said. “But it was kind of bittersweet, because we finished second to a team that has both a full-time coach and choreographer.”

The CSB team includes:
• Ali Jacobson*, Sr., Apple Valley, Minn. (Eastview High School)
• Jessica Remhof*, Sr., Inver Grove Heights, Minn. (Simley High School)
• Christine Holmgren*, Jr., Ham Lake, Minn. (Blaine High School)
• Katie Streitz, Sr., Plymouth, Minn. (Armstrong High School)
• Ashley Artmann, Jr., Brooklyn Park, Minn. (Champlin Park High School)
• Kaitlin Sundberg, Jr., Wayzata, Minn. (Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School)
• Kaylie Elstad, So., Duluth, Minn. (Marshall High School)
• Annie Henderson, So., Slayton, Minn. (Murray County Central High School)
• Danielle Johnson, So., Shoreview, Minn. (Mounds View High School)
• Kayla Kragh, So., St. Cloud, Minn. (Cathedral High School)
• Emily Lenz, So., Duluth, Minn. (East High School)
• Michelle Brunik, FY, Ham Lake, Minn. (Blaine High School)
• Katie Sauer, FY, St. Cloud, Minn. (Cathedral High School)

* - Denotes team captain

A video of the CSB performances can be viewed at, and scrolling down to the CSB links.

ESPN is also expected to show the competition at a later date.

CSB Dance Team Takes Second At Nationals

St. Ben’s earned highest ever team finish in national competition

By Tom Mix
The Record

Senior captain Jessica Remhof and the rest of the CSB dance team got a thrill of a lifetime last weekend.
The team was awarded second place at the United Dance Association National Open Division Meet Sunday in Orlando, Fla.

“When we had hear the third place team announced and our name was not said yet we all got really excited,” Remhof said. “When we got second place, we were all in shock and disbelief. We had achieved the impossible.”

The second-place finish was the best team performance at nationals for the St. Ben’s dance team, who placed fourth in 2007. Capturing runner-up honors guarantees St. Ben’s will be featured on ESPN at a date and time to be determined.

The team submitted a video-taped performance of its routine in the fall and were selected as one of the 28 open-division teams invited to compete at the national meet.

The team was pre-ranked seventh heading into the two-day meet and knew they wanted to prove the ranking wrong.

“We accepted the seventh place ranking and knew we had a lot of potential,” senior captain Ali Jacobson said. “We knew we had to work harder to get a higher ranking at nationals.”

The practices appeared to payoff as the team jumped to a second-place ranking after the first day of competition heading into the 13-team semifinal.

Defending national champion Orange Coast College (Cali.) ranked first after day one, but was upset by St. Thomas who captured the championship after being ranked third heading into the semifinals.

The Tommie dance team had a one-point advantage over St. Ben’s in the final scoring tally.

“We were excited for the second-place finish because it’s the highest we’ve ever placed at the national meet,” Jacobson said. “We are completely self coached and rely on ourselves.”

Remhof said the team’s finish was a team effort.

“Not having a coach makes the second place finish sweeter because we know we got there together and achieved on our own without the external help of coaches and choreographers,” Remhof said.

The team returns home to compete in its own competition Saturday at the CSB.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

UT Dance Team Claims Back-To-Back National Championships

After some stormy weather postponed events until the final day of competition, Tennessee’s dance team used the extra time to hone their routine en route to their second straight national championship in the jazz routine at Walt Disney World’s Wide World of Sports Complex.

The final day of competition saw both the dance and cheer team turn in performances that would make any coach and alumni proud. As the final day of competition came to a close, Tennessee’s spirit squads brought home a total of two national championships, a second-place finish by the cheer squad, and fifth-place finish by the dance team in the hip-hop division and a good showing by the cheer duo of senior Clayton Baker and freshman Mandy Pitto. By many accounts, it was a great weekend and one the University of Tennessee fans, alumni and administrators can be proud to support.

Led by seniors Shawn Manners, Holly Simmons and Maci Stephens, the dance team capped a full day of performing by saving their best performance for last. Their motto for this weekend was “Believe.” And hey held to that motto. It was a quiet confidence by a very talented group of ladies who know their abilities and believe they can accomplish anything set before them.

They day began with a semi-final performance which was postponed by the heavy thunderstorms which swept into the Orlando area late Saturday afternoon. Thus their day began bright and early championship morning.

They had little time to relax after easily making it to the finals in the jazz routine. The squad then had to make quick time to make costume changes for the finals of the hip-hop competition just a little more than an hour later. It was these final two dances where they shined.

The hip-hop scene was a crowd pleaser and got great reviews from many of those in attendance. It was not enough to wrestle away the crown form defending national champion Memphis, but it was enough to improve on last year’s finish and place fifth.

As if the dance team’s performance was not enough, dominating the field on their way to the crown, then what came next shocked a lot of people in attendance. Tennessee’s cheer squad came into the competition as one of the youngest and least experienced squad’s on the floor competing against multi-national champion Kentucky, and powerhouses Central Florida, Alabama, LSU and Hawaii.

But the cheer squad also had a motto this past weekend - “No excuses. Play like a champion.” And to their credit they gave everything they had and performed like a champion.

The Vols needed to fight their way through the semi-finals to reach the final day of competition. After drawing an early spot in the competition, the Vols had to follow Kentucky’s near flawless routine with their own dynamic routine just moments later. And then they had to wait for the other college squads to strut their stuff. In the end only one stood above Tennessee at the podium.

It was a great performance by a very talented and young squad from Tennessee. And in the history of the program, this one stands second to none as they tied the highest finish by a cheer squads set back in 2000, 2004 and 2006.

But 2008 will be remembered as the best finish overall by the Tennessee spirit teams. No other college team had such a successful weekend of competition. If an award was given to the best overall collegiate program, it would be awful hard to find a school with a better performance than that of the University of Tennessee.

“I am extremely proud of what our young men and women were able to accomplish this weekend,” said UT Spirit Coordinator and Head Cheer coach Joy Postell Gee. “They worked so very hard to get to the championships and it is a testament to their work ethics and the great coaching staff who put in so much to these programs.

“It is an honor to represent the University of Tennessee with these fine young people and with what we were able to accomplish. It says a lot about their class and ability to represent not only the University but the state of Tennessee.”

It was a performance that even the late General Robert Neyland would have been proud of. For the dance team, it is always harder to defend a national championship than it is to win it. But they did not just go out and do just enough, they actually distanced themselves from runner-up Minnesota and ran away with their second crown. As for the cheerleading squad, they came into the competition under the radar and worked their way up from the semi-finals to knock on the door of a national crown. And then there was Smokey, leading the pack and the weekend with his first national crown since 2001. If was definitely a great time to be a Tennessee Vol.

Story Courtesy: Tennessee Spirit Squad
Photo's Courtesy: Donnell Field, Field Imagery

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tennessee Takes It! - UDA Results

Tennessee (pictured-courtesy took home its second IA Dance title in a row at the 2008 UDA College Dance Team National Championship in Orlando over the weekend. Cal State Fullerton was victorious in the Division I Dance competition, while St. Thomas won the Open Dance Division. For complete results, visit, and be sure to check out Varsity Wired to watch outstanding video of all the competitors from the weeeknd. The results of the finals are below.

IA Dance Finals
1. Tennessee
2. Minnesota
3. Wisconsin
4. Kansas
5. Cincinnati
6. Florida State
7. Memphis
8. Michigan
9. Louisiana/Central Florida
10. Louisiana State
11. Oklahoma

Division I Dance Finals
1. Cal State Fullerton
2. Long Beach State
3. Idaho State
4. North Dakota State
5. UC - Santa Barbara
6. South Alabama
7. St John's
8. Missouri State/Northern Iowa
9. UC Davis/Delaware
10. Hofstra
11. Oakland

Open Dance Finals
1. St Thomas
2. College of St Benedict
3. Orange Coast College
4. Lindenwood
5. Wisconsin-Eau Claire
6. Avila University
7. Wagner College
8. University of Puerto Rico - Bayamon
9. Central Missouri
10. The College of New Jersey
11. St Cloud State
12. Minnesota State - Moorhead
13. West Chester

IA Hip Hop Finals
1. Memphis
2. Cincinnati
3. Nevada - Las Vegas
4. Louisiana State
5. Tennessee

Division I Hip Hop Finals
1. Cal State Fullerton
2. University of Illinois- Chicago
3. Hofstra
4. Northern Arizona
5. Delaware

Open Hip Hop Finals
1. Lindenwood
2. St Thomas
3. Orange Coast College
4. St Cloud State
5. University of Puerto Rico- Bayamon

Thursday, January 17, 2008

UDA Nationals Preview

For the second year in a row, Dave from the Dance Team Competitions Yahoo! Group has provided College Dance Team Central with the most comprehensive preview around of the UDA College Dance Team Championship that will take place this weekend. Below is Dave’s analysis of the competitors, and be sure to visit the Dance Team Competitions Yahoo! Group

Division IA Dance

1. Minnesota: Problems with their routine last year have been discussed almost to death but, in spite of it all, I still scored Minnesota in 2nd place last year just a small fraction of a point behind my #1 pick. But, in reality they ended up a whopping 30 points behind Tennessee – the same margin of victory they had in 2006. I don't know if any team can match the quality of Minnesota's dancing. They are truly that good. But, especially at UDA College – the particular score sheet element for technique is not that major – only 20% of the score. So, the competition doesn't end there. But, either does my appreciation for Minnesota. I think their stage presence is phenomenal – just phenomenal – they radiate confidence. And even if their music last year was a little flat, their overall routine composition is consistently top top-notch. Their musicality is also excellent and they really challenge themselves on that front as well. It is very hard to pick against Minnesota and I won't do it.

2. Tennessee: Of all of the teams in my Top Five, I hear the least about Tennessee but that is merely a function of who I know and who I don't know in this dance team world. But, for that reason I consistently underestimate Tennessee and in that time they have surged up to be the reigning champs. Tennessee did it all right last year and they won pretty easily with a fantastic technical and emotional display. I personally didn't buy into their choreography 100% (and believe me I heard what a fool I was) but that doesn't really matter. Whatever, they rock. I was really going to pick Tennessee in 5th place but then I went back and watched their performance from last year and I was reminded of how very very strong they are and I didn't want to underestimate them again just because they are not on my personal radar. I hope they come back even stronger in 2008 and ready to defend this title because that is going to make the competition even more enjoyable to watch.

3. Cincinnati: This is the third straight year that I have picked Cincinnati to finish 3rd but I feel like they will certainly be a contender to win it all. Cincinnati was my #1 team in finals last year and that was after showing incredible improvement from 2006 to 2007. Seriously, I did not think they could improve as much as they did. Their dance last year was a perfect blend of artistry and mainstream entertainment with a great variety of musical tempos and motion and Cincy danced the heck out of it – especially in finals. Last year I didn't think they had the technique of Tennessee or Minnesota but they had still improved tremendously from where they were in 2006 and with another year under their belts – oh my. Last year in my preview I pointed out that they had over 100 points to make up on Minnesota and that it was just too much ground and they ended up beating Minnesota by nine points after trailing Minnesota in semis (and Minnesota had huge errors in semis). So Cincinnati makes up ground fast. If Cincinnati has the best routine again (or just close to it) with the continued improvement that I expect to see from them technically (which will get them to the highest levels) – plus their scintillating attack in finals – they will win. They will.

4. Kansas: To me, Kansas has always been a team of tremendous talent in search of a dance home. After three straight years in the Top Five they plummeted to 12th place last year and going into the 2007 competition I said that I didn't think they had the hunger to match their talent. And they showed that lack of hunger last year. I had Kansas in 5th after semis but then dropped them to 11th place in finals because their dance was just "good." No spark. But, Kansas has a lot going for them this year. A lot. And I think all of their unfocused talent has finally found focus and they are coming in charging. People are feeling it. 2nd in 2004 and 3rd in 2006 – Kansas does extremely well in years with even numbers and 2008 should be no different. Flat out I think Kansas can win this and I place them 4th amongst my Top Five only because they have not had the immediate recent success of the three teams I ranked above them.

5. Wisconsin-Madison: Wisconsin-Madison has five straight years in the Top Four and they were 2nd in taping and the opinion I heard was that they should have beat Minnesota at camp. That is all really good. I had Wisconsin scored in 1st place in semis last year and even their slightly more flawed performance came in 4th just six points behind their "nemesis" team to the West (OK, northwest) in finals. I think it is true that Wisconsin has been dancing in Minnesota's shadow – particularly stylistically – and it has kept them as a frequent runner-up. Wisconsin's music and choreography (even costume) has always seemed to me to be just a little too understated – a little too cautious. They need to bust out with a more dramatic and dynamic look and feel and dance like they are the team that has been 1st place all of these years. I always think Wisconsin has a chance to win but after five years of being close – I start to think that they can only be close. But, in Wisconsin's favor I have a long history of giving up on teams chances of winning in the exact year they break through and win. (see Greeley West Jazz in 2001 and Eden Prairie Pom in 2002). So, in everyone else's favor I am not giving up on Wisconsin just yet – I still think they can win it all.

6. Florida State: More incredible talent in search of a proper focus. I don't think Florida State can afford to have as poor execution as they had in 2007. And that nervousness I have about their execution -- coupled with the fact that Florida State hasn't quite had a routine that really showcases their talent – makes me keep FSU out of the very upper echelon. They will get very far on talent though and with a better routine they will certainly be back in the Top Five where they have been for the past two years. Otherwise, they will be close to the Top Five but they might see the same result as they had last year where they drop in finals as a less textured routine becomes more noticeable in the 2nd round – despite better execution than in semis.

7. Central Florida: Central Florida is ridiculously consistent and I can't even say that they are "stuck" because they have made changes to "move with the times." Their choreography last year was much better last year than it had been in the past and their technique was also much improved. I still think they are moving along on the right track it is just that they have some really great teams ahead of them that they need to catch.

8. Louisiana: The Ragin'Jazz have held steadily in the Second Five for the past three years and even though I think they have shown consistent improvement – it has just been enough to stay in place as their competition gets tougher around them. It is funny that 5th place can seem such a long way off but 6th does not. Louisiana doesn't need to overthink this. They have a very talented smart coach and a talented team and they just need to relax and be who they are. They seemed to find their confidence in hip-hop last year and it should be here too – once that settles in – they will surge up the rankings. Could be this year.

9. LSU: Other than missing the finals in 2005, LSU has also been a steady presence in and around the Second Five. LSU's routine last year was good but also almost completely inoffensive. They finished better than I thought they would – than most people thought they would – because it was hard to find too much fault with their routine. It was also hard to get too excited about it as well. That is not a bad strategy if you want to finish in 6th place. I would like to see more from LSU but I also think they are consistently one of the best teams and I do expect to see them back in the finals and the Top Ten in 2008.

10. Oklahoma: Five straight years in the finals for Oklahoma and they are always at least a unique presence in the finals. They usually do something that stands out although, most years, that has probably cost them a few points in the rankings. Oklahoma seems to have a little extra spark this year though and after three years outside the Top Ten, this may be the year they get back.

11. Illinois: Last year I said that Illinois reminds me a little bit of Kansas without quite the record of success. Lots and lots of talent but somehow they haven't done much better lately than slip into finals. I have not heard or seen anything this year to make me change my mind. Still, I really liked Illinois last year and I was a fan of their "precision jazz" look. But, their routine lacked the texture of the teams that finished ahead of them and I think they can challenge themselves more musically. Their style was interesting but they still need to press the difficulty – and not just technically but in all facets of the routine.

12. Alabama: Alabama was quite good last year but it is funny how they used the same song as Westmoore and yet, somehow, it didn't seem like most people really noticed the song until Westmoore danced to it. That is fairly telling. They are good but there are a lot of good teams in this competition. They need more. But, that said, I still see Alabama advancing to the finals.

13. Memphis: Memphis was 3rd in 2005 and if any team might benefit from the rumblings for more crowd-pleasing routines – it would be Memphis. Even then, the technique has just not been there the last two years and I don't think fast, upbeat music automatically equals crowd appeal. But, Memphis is a great program and they will define their own goals for this division and I still think they will always make an impact because they have a presence that reaches out and grabs you.

14. Michigan State: Well, they reversed their slide last year and made it back to the finals with an upbeat number to "How Will I Know." Again, "upbeat" does not automatically equal crowd-pleasing and especially because the choreography or the Michigan State dancers could not keep up with the pace of the music. It all felt rushed. But, looking at the entire field – Michigan State has been one of the most consistently good teams out there and they will probably be back in the finals for the seventh time in the last eight years.

15. Iowa: The best thing Iowa had going for them last year was talent. They had an uninspired music choice and they didn't really even connect with that familiar song. But, they were a finalist and they had a good taping score and talent is a good thing. With even a moderate improvement in their music and choreography and musicality, Iowa should be back in the finals.

THE REST OF THE PACK (In Performance Order)

South Florida: Tough draw for a team that has only made the finals once in the last four years. Good video entry score and I like their football team. They have to show up for semis and make their mark or they will get lost in the shuffle.

Colorado State: I'm with Russia. The Colorado schools really must be squandering some incredible talent. I can't even figure it out. Colorado State hasn't been to the finals since 2004 and I have not heard or seen anything that makes me think that 2008 is the year they return. Also, dealing with a tough draw.

Southern Mississippi: They are a newcomer team to UDA and a long shot and I wish Southern Mississippi a lot of luck

Connecticut: Another newcomer team to UDA. We are starting to see these Big East teams now. I like it.

Kent State: They had a fun routine last year – it certainly stood out amongst the semifinalists who didn't make finals and they have three years of experience under their belts. It would be nice to see Kent State break through to the finals.

Mississippi: 17th place last year and 17th in taping. I have no memory of them although – like Russia – I also had them placed higher than the judges. Both of us saw something even if neither of us can remember what it was. Decent draw and I won't be surprised to see them back in the finals.

Michigan: Michigan took last year off after being a near rock steady Second Five finishing team – missing the finals only in 2004. They certainly have a good shot at the finals and a good draw.

Auburn: Auburn tied with Iowa last year and they had some really good execution. That was their strong point. Choreography was not particularly memorable and it didn't have great connection to the music but that could have been on the dancers rather than on the composition. Still, they are steadily improving but being "together" is not enough. I actually think going at the end of the performance order is a little risk for a team like Auburn because they might be dealing with fatigued judges who need to see something a little fresh that late in the draw. More showmanship – more creativity. No mistakes is not that exciting – especially after 22 other routines.

Northwestern: They were 15th place last year and they danced so so soft and polite. I did think Northwestern was on the right track though even though their medium-sized dance was still a little too big for them. I am sounding harsher than I mean to sound because they were very pretty dancers but I know they can come with a lot more. They were finalists for the first time last year and that is still no mean feat in Division 1A dance and hopefully that will be a little extra shot of confidence for the Northwestern dance team so that they can get their performance level up to their talent level.

Division IA Hip Hop

1. Memphis: Putting Memphis first came down to two things for me. First of all I think Memphis has both the athleticism and the hip-hop dance chops -- they use their music well rhythmically. Louisiana has not really shown the former and Cincinnati has not been as strong with the latter. Of course, I am talking about the past but I have nothing else to go on. Second, Memphis knows how to defend a title once they get it. Once again, I am talking about the past but this title really does mean a lot to this University and that is yet another "x-factor" in favor of Memphis. There is a long and proud tradition of dance excellence at Memphis – longer than for any other school and they are a storied program in college dance like no other. The "Title Town" of college dance. I think the main weakness for Memphis last year was they kind of came out like gangbusters (their stage presence is amazing) but the second half of the routine faded a little. If they can go out on as high of a note as they come in – I don't think there will be any stopping them. I don't. They were champs with this routine twenty years ago and I know they would like to celebrate that anniversary with another title in 2008.

2. Louisiana: 6th in 2005, 5th in 2006 and 3rd last year. The Ragin' Jazz are on the rise. They use the detail in their music better than any team and they are just so smooth. Last year I said I thought their two biggest issues were to show more confidence (which they did – especially in finals) and more athleticism (they just didn't show enough for the general style preference). So, it isn't like Louisiana tried and failed in the latter regard. Still, you have to give the people a little bit of what they want if you can and the reports are that Louisiana can and will be doing just that in 2008. Unlike a lot of teams I am also sure that any "tricks" will be seamlessly incorporated into the routine – because that is what Louisiana does. They get in the music. The Ragin' Jazz also can't have a worse draw than they did last year and that also works in their favor. They have a great shot to win this whole thing and complete their climb to the top.

3. Cincinnati: I must be crazy to put Cincinnati in 3rd especially since I have heard nothing but raves about them. They were the three-time defending champion from 2004-2006 until they lost by a single point to Memphis last year. I have always thought that Cincinnati had the best pacing in their routines because they always hit several high points in their dances and they managed to keep the audience very interested from start to finish. Criticized for doing a "floor exercise" last year but I did think that they stepped up the dancing portion between tricks in the finals last year and from what I have heard about their 2008 routine -- it sounds like that has been a point of emphasis for Cincy this year. When all was said and done I still picked them as my winner in 2007 and they really impressed me with their fight in finals last year. I basically see very little difference between my Top Three but I had to rank them – but Cincinnati has a tremendous chance to win the Division 1A Hip-Hop title back.

4. Tennessee: I had Tennessee in 2nd after prelims in 2007 and they really made a great debut in 2006. They had some pretty major execution issues last year and the overall package was just not up to the high expectations everyone had for them in Hip-Hop after their 4th place showing two years ago. Still, they are two for two in the Top Five and even though a lot of people were not particularly crazy about their dance last year – they were not far out of third-place. A little improvement in routine composition and execution and Tennessee will be a threat yet again to break into the Top Three in Hip-Hop.

5. Louisiana State: LSU has three Top Four finishes in this division and they were just a nose behind Louisiana last year so they are clearly a threat. They always have a clever gimmick although I thought went too far last year with the hats on their chest. There just had to be a better way. I also did not appreciate their sleeveless look. Despite all of those negatives from me they were just 4 points out of third place so I am sort of talking myself into putting them higher than 5th. But, I won't. LSU will be way up there again but I am not convinced that they can really challenge for the top spot like they did in 2004 and 2005.

6. Minnesota: I was so sure that Minnesota was going to do the right thing in Hip-Hop last year and they let me down. Crazy talent but they have not been pushing themselves to master the kind of content that the higher-placing teams have. Their style rhythmically is not even close to the complexity that they could handle. They are amazing dancers though and that can not be denied and it is always going to keep them high in the rankings – because they look great doing even just the simplest things.

7. Kansas: Kansas was 8th last year but I had them scored in 11th. They had some choreography issues last year that bothered me (and maybe only me) but I felt like they sped through their routine and I didn't feel like there were very many times for the audience to connect with what they were doing. Connection to the music was spotty. Still, they finished pretty high and they are extremely talented and they improved from their 11th place finish from 2006. So, it is not a stretch to think that they will continue to move up the Hip-Hop rankings.

8. Oklahoma: Oklahoma hasn't been in the finals since 2005 and I scored them really low last year. They had a low taping score but I understand that it was because of a penalty and that otherwise their routine was pretty impressive. Applesparkle stood up for them and that is noteworthy – on the other hand – I really don't like Bob Stoops. Although it is not fair to hold that against the dance team. They have talent and it seems like they have some solid choreography this year so I do expect them to make a strong showing in 2008.

9. Wisconsin-Madison: I hate to put Wisconsin-Madison so low but their failure to make finals in 2006 haunts me. Not really. But, it is a concern. I don't think they have been bringing the choreography the last two years –at least not to my taste and I think that has been holding back this extremely talented group of dancers in hip-hop. Still, they were Top Five twice and they just need to put forth a routine that shows off their skills. They could easily get back to the Top Five.

10: Florida State: They are the only team left competing (other than Michigan State) that has made the finals in Hip-Hop every year that they have competed but they have been in the finals three times to Michigan State's two. So, Florida State gets the final spot in my Top Ten for that reason. I had them scored in12th last year in finals and I blamed bland choreography. The talent is easily there and they have been a consistent finalist. With an even slightly pleasing routine they will be back in the Top Ten where they have been twice before.

THE REST OF THE PACK (in Performance Order)

Mississippi: It is their first-time competing in the Hip-Hop division and any school this big from this part of the country should be able to make a respectable showing – or better – in Hip-Hop. They have a tough draw for a new team – dancing in the wake of the mighty Cincinnati and early in the performance order. They are the only team without experience too so that makes them a little bit of a long shot.

Alabama: Alabama made the finals and the Top Ten in Hip-Hop for the first time last year. I have been putting them and taking them out of the Top Ten each time I rethink my predictions. I actually liked them better than the judges did last year and I thought they were pretty entertaining. I expect Alabama to do well yet again, I am just thinking that some teams that they beat last year will pass them by.

Illinois: Illinois has been sliding back in the rankings since a debut at 9th place in 2005 and I had them scored pretty low last year. This is an easy division to turn things around in – especially with the constant stream of talent these big universities have – but Illinois is going to have to prove it on the floor because on paper I don't see them making the finals.

Nevada-Las Vegas: Nevada Las Vegas was not bad at all last year and I had them scored on the cusp of finals. I was also encouraged to hear that they were ready to come back with more fight in 2008. And the reports I have heard about their routine in 2008 are enthusiastic. I am not going to be surprised if they make finals this year.

South Florida: Count me in with Russia – I thought the Sun Dolls were a lock for finals last year and I had them in 8th in prelims but they didn't advance. That might have been because they went first and they have a better draw this time. I had them in my Top Ten until just seconds ago and then I dropped them for Florida State. I will not be surprised at all if South Florida makes the finals and the Top Ten.

Michigan: In two tries they didn't make finals and then they took last year off. This field is tougher than the fields where they stalled out in semifinals and the year off can't help. But you can never discount the chances of a huge Big Ten University (except in a BCS Bowl Game – Ha!). Still, a little bit of a long shot here but with hope.

Michigan State: I only saw them dance once last year and I thought they had some great great energy. I note that Russia did not like them though. They have made the finals both times they have competed in Hip-Hop and I had them in my Top Ten for a while before settling with Michigan State just outside the Top Ten but probably still a finalist. For the record, I put Michigan State in 6th place last year in finals.

Iowa: They slipped into the finals in 2006 and then last year I scored them very very low. It was kind of a misfire doing the "Farmer Hip-Hop." It kind of came across like Marie Osmond's doll dance on Dancing With The Stars. No crime though and that is an easy fix to make. Still, I think Iowa is a bit of a long shot to make the finals in Hip-Hop.

Central Florida: I feel like Central Florida should be succeeding in Hip-Hop and they were a respectable 12th place last year in their first outing despite the huge skirt the dancers wore that threatened to swallow their entire routine. People said they looked better just in warm-ups and I believe that because the very same thing happened once to a team my sister danced on – where they got lost in a huge skirt. So, I am nervous about keeping Central Florida out of my Top Ten picks and I bet they will make me regret it.

Division I and Open Dance

Open Dance
1. Orange Coast
2. St. Thomas
3. Lindenwood
4. St. Benedict's
5. Avila
Comments: Close between 2nd and 3rd.

Open Hip-Hop
1. Orange Coast
2. Lindenwood
3. St. Thomas
4. St. Cloud State
5. Avila

Division 1 Dance
1. Long Beach State
2. Cal State Fullerton'
3. North Dakota State
4. Idaho State
5. Delaware
Comments: Cal State Fullerton has more #1 votes though -- they just have a couple of low rankings.

Division 1 Hip-Hop
1. Hofstra
2.(tie) Illinois-Chicago
2. (tie) Delaware
4. Cal State Fullerton
5. SE Louisiana

Monday, January 14, 2008

Dancing Her Way To The Top

Maple Avenue Dance student makes Hofstra squad

Harald Online

Samantha Jannotte has always enjoyed dancing, ever since she attended Maple Avenue Dance in Rockville Centre and then captained the Oceanside High School dance team her junior and senior years. Now she is competing with one of the top college teams in the country.

The Hofstra sophomore, who transferred from Towson University, was one of only three to make the Hofstra University dance team in September tryouts, and two months later was one of a select few members to be named to the competition squad, which will attempt to capture a national title competing at the nationals at Disney World this month. Jannotte said she was surprised to make the competition team so early in her Hofstra dance career since the program traditionally finishes among the top 10 dance teams in the country and won a national title in 2006. Jannotte, a 2006 OHS graduate, decided to transfer to Hofstra from Towson after her first year of college due to the close proximity to her family and the strong theater program the university offered.

Jannotte was shocked she was selected in September tryouts since 16 members had already been picked in May and there was only room for two or three more dancers out of the more than 20 vying for a spot on the team. "I was jumping up and down," Jannotte said of her reaction when she found out she had made the team.

Kim Alberti taught Jannotte for the 14 years she attended Maple Avenue Dance in Rockville Centre, and said she improved each year, danced with much "personality and passion," and added classes and a variety of new techniques each year. "Maple Avenue Dance became like a second home to her, as she was there every day of the week, striving to perfect her techniques," said Alberti. "It was my pleasure to work with such a talented and driven dancer and I feel that the Hofstra Dance Team is very lucky that Samantha is dancing with them."

Jennifer Fransca, Janotte's Oceanside High School dance coach for her junior and senior years, said, "Sam is an absolute delight to watch perform, because her love of dance comes through in every performance. I think that there are big things in store for Sam and look forward to seeing her succeed in the future."

Since she was selected to the Hofstra dance team, Jannotte has performed at halftime during Hofstra football and basketball games, as well as other special events like the Italian Festival held in September. Being a part of the Hofstra dance team is a major commitment requiring three-hour practices held four times a week, making a rigorous academic schedule even more challenging. But thus far Jannotte has been up to the challenge, pulling in a 3.5 grade-point average. "You just have to know what to focus on," said Jannotte, of how she is able to balance school and dance her first semester at Hofstra. "You can't let your mind drift."

Jannotte also hopes to juggle performing for the Hofstra dance team with pursuing her passion for theater. The fine arts major took part in plays at OHS her sophomore, junior and senior years, including the lead role in "Oklahoma" in 2005. She aspires to be on a Broadway stage someday. The 2006 Oceanside graduate said Hofstra has a rich tradition of offering its theater majors top-notch performances such as the annual Shakespeare Festival held every March, and she hopes to take part in as many as possible. In addition to the valuable dance experience Jannotte is getting at Hofstra, she has made many good friends on the team. She said the older members of the team lead by example and motivate everybody to work hard. "Everyone is really committed," she said.

Delaware Spirit Team Send-Off Exhibition Set


The Cheerleading and Dance teams and Fightin' Blue Hen mascot YoUDee personify UD school spirit by cheering on teams and entertaining the UD community with their verve, talent, prowess, energy and enthusiasm.

Now it's time for all Blue Hens to cheer them on by coming to their free performance at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 15, in Gym 1 of the Carpenter Sports Building. The teams are preparing to rehearse and preview their routines before heading to the 2008 College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championships, Friday-Sunday, Jan. 18-20, at Disney World in Orlando.

YoUDee also will be on hand to present the mascot skit to be performed at the national championships.

Viewers will be treated to the acrobatics, cheers, choreography and performances that have launched the spirit teams to the national top 10 over the past seven years. Last year the UD Cheerleading Team came in second in Division 1 team competition, with students Amanda Cassarino and Gregory Gilbert taking first place in the coed partner stunt category. The Dance Team won second place in the Division 1 Hip-Hop category and fourth place in Division 1 Jazz, and YoUDee came in seventh in the mascot competition.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Dancin’ with the Dawgs

Albany’s UGA Georgettes share their love for dancing and cheering for their school.
By Ashley Hindsman
Albany Herald

ALBANY — For every member of the University of Georgia Bulldogs football team, there are probably tens of thousands of fans who watch their every game and celebrate their every touchdown.

But the women of the UGA Georgette dance line consider themselves to be a big factor in supporting the Bulldogs when they are on the field, performing at every home game and most away games.

And for Katie Raines, Traci Raines and Anne Davis, all Georgettes and Albany residents, being on the dance line has given them an outlet for dancing and has shown them the true meaning of school spirit.

Katie, 21, who is finishing her last year at UGA and as captain of the Georgettes, said she first thought about joining the dance line as a senior at Deerfield-Windsor School.

“When I got to my senior year of high school I couldn’t imagine not dancing anymore. Lucky for me, my high school dance coach (Sharon Presley) was a Georgette when she was in college so she kind of put it in my ear,” she said.

“I have been on the team for four years and I loved every minute of it,” she added.

She said one of her most memorable moments was when she traveled with the dance line out of the country.

“In May 2006, we went to China and it was an amazing trip. We did five shows and we performed in the Shang Hai Stadium in front of, like, 80,000 people. These people had come just to see us perform for an hour and a half,” she said.

“And of course there are really fun games like the Auburn game this year and the black out,” she added.

But her most exciting moments, she said, came after her younger sister, Traci, a 20-year-old sophomore, made the dance line last year.

“It had been a long time since we had been able to dance together and I thought that she was strong enough to do well at auditions,” she said. “I knew her skills and even though I had a feeling that she would be a little bit nervous.”

As captain, Katie was responsible for coordinating the tryout dance routine when her sister auditioned. She said she helped Traci to learn the routine and get over her nerves before she auditioned.

“We had practiced together a lot and even though there were a few things she wasn’t familiar with I knew she would do fine,” she said. “It was one of the harder try out routines we’ve had in a long time.”

Traci, however, said she wasn’t at all confident when she first watched her sister perform the tryout dance routine.

“Oh my gosh, I was so nervous. She said I would be fine and when I saw her do the dance it was the hardest dance I’ve ever learned in my life, and I was like ‘I hate you,’” Traci, 20, laughed.

Traci said though she was excited to try out, she wasn’t sure about her level of dance skills because she hadn’t danced since the eighth grade after joining the basketball team at Deerfield-Windsor.

Though she was glad to have her sister for support, Traci said having her sister as captain actually added more pressure on her at tryouts.

“The judges didn’t know she was my sister. I was about to cry I was so nervous. I would have felt bad that my sister was the captain and I still couldn’t make it,” she said.

But after she made the dance line, Traci said things got easier for her as she began to form close bonds with the other dancers and make memories of her own.

“Last year’s Tennessee game was our first night game it was dark when we started pregame,” she said. “We had the parachuters come in and everybody was taking pictures. I looked at my sister that night and I just kept saying, ‘This is so cool.’ ”

Davis, an 18-year-old freshman, was also encouraged by Katie to try out for the Georgette dance line during her senior year at Deerfield-Windsor.

“Katie was the captain of my freshman dance line in high school and she got me interested because she tried out. She was a major influence,” Davis explained.

Davis said though the practice hours can sometimes be grueling, she enjoys the benefit of managing her time more wisely.

“It was a difficult try out, but it was worth it, definitely,” she said. “It actually kept me a lot more focused because I was forced to structure my time and it gave me an outlet for stress.”

With so many memories between the three of them and the other 11 dance line members, Katie said dancing at the Sugar Bowl today as the Bulldogs face the University of Hawaii in New Orleans is going to be somewhat bittersweet as it is going to be her last performance.

“The girls,” Katie said of what she’ll miss most. “It’s just you spend so much time together that you get to be so close. Most of my best friends from college are girls that have danced here. It’s hard to say bye to the girls and just being in Sanford Stadium during pregame.”

“Not being able to be down there anymore, I definitely cried the last few games,” she said.

She said either way she is looking forward to meeting with the University of Hawaii band and cheering on a good game.