College Dance Team Central

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Pittsburg State Dance Team Travels To Vegas For Competition

By Matthew Knoche
The Collegio

Pittsburg State's dance team recently returned from competing in Las Vegas at a national dance competition.

Thirteen teams hailing from all over the United States competed.

"I think we did good considering we were going against D1 schools," said Katie Jones, sophomore in communication.
The Division 2 PSU team is D2, so it had to compete against teams from much larger schools.

That wasn't the only challenge, according to Joy Leek, team captain.

"I think we did extremely well considering we were competing with nine girls compared to teams with 20," Leek said. "Another challenging thing from nationals was nerves from just being around such good skills."

Leek says that preparation for the dance team was extreme. The team began practicing for five hours a day in early January, and then when school started again, they switched to 10 hours a week.

"I think our strong points from nationals were we looked clean and we were very synchronized," said Maggie Stephens, freshman in commercial graphics.

"This experience teaches us to be patient, helps you appreciate athletics and most definitely prepares you for the real world."

The winner of the tournament has not yet been decided. Check the Collegio for future announcements.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

UW-Eau Claire Dance Team Feature

No coach, no problem
Dance team led by captains finishes fifth in jazz, sixth in hip-hop at nationals
By Maja Petersen
Media Credit: Submitted photo
The Spectator

The UW-Eau Claire dance team is unique because it lacks something most other teams at the university need in order to survive - a coach.

Senior Tara Montgomery, junior Laura Sukowatey and sophomore Kaitlin Zeiter lead the team as captains.

"Since we have no coach it is pretty much up to everyone on the team to push themselves and work for something together," Montgomery said.

The dance team competes in a variety of competitions throughout its season, which starts the second week of fall semester and currently is nearing its end. Highlights from this season include a first place finish at the St. Thomas Invitational, fourth place at the Spirit of America competition and a trip to Nationals in Florida.

The Nationals competition was Jan. 19 and 20. Out of 28 teams that competed, Eau Claire placed fifth in the jazz competition and sixth in the hip hop category.

"The point distribution between first and fifth was not that much," Montgomery said. "It didn't matter how we placed; everyone felt good about how they danced and looked."

Senior Ashley Friedrich, who has been dancing since she was three, said Nationals was her favorite part of the season.

"It's just a great experience and we get to compete against the best teams in the country," she said.

There are 19 women on the dance team, including 14 who competed at Nationals. Montgomery said this is the largest number of members the team has ever had. "We are always reinventing ourselves," she said of the team, which will lose six seniors this year.

Freshman Stephanie Gustafson said she joined to keep active and meet people who shared similar interests.

"The people are really what make (the team)," she said. "It's just a great group of people to be with and work with."

In addition to competitions, the dance team practices three nights a week and dances at basketball games. During the weeks leading up to Nationals, it practiced from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Gustafson said the season started out pretty laid back, but as Nationals approached, things got more intense.

"It was always fun," she said. "Even when it got intense the fun didn't go away."

The dance team is considered a sports club and has a set budget, Montgomery said. This year the team received an extra grant called the "Student Organization Opportunity Fund," meaning it's partly sponsored by Activities and Programs, she said. The dance team also does various fundraisers to support itself, the main one being a clinic and competition for local high schools and colleges.

In order to save money, the team doesn't have a coach. It is lead mostly by the captains, but others help out as well.

Friedrich said sometimes it can be frustrating not having a coach because the captains have to balance their leadership roles with their friendships on the team.

"Sometimes it's more fun because we have more of a say in the dances and costumes," she said. "It would be a lot easier if we had a coach, but our team does well with just the captains."

When Gustafson tried out for the team she was a little intimidated. But once she was on the team, Gustafson said she felt welcomed by everyone.

"Even though they were older I never felt like because I was a freshman, there was anything wrong with that."

UNH Dancers Compete in UDA College Nationals

Fosters Daily Democrat

DURHAM — The Dance Team traveled to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., last month to compete in the UDA College National Championships.

The Wildcats began performing on the Indiana Jones stage at Disney's MGM. UNH Dance came in 16th out of 25 competitors. Sara Tarnowski, an advisor to the dance team.. said it was the best dance she had seen them perform.

The team's initial goal was to achieve 16th place. "We were extremely proud and pleased to find out that is what we received. We were only eight points away from going to the finals," said Captain Elana Pierro. The season for the dancers is not over. The team will be working hard for the upcoming UDA regional Competition to be held at Westfield State College of Massachusetts in the end of this month.

Feature On NC State Dance Team

Dance more than a routine for team
Members of the squad say they do more than shake pompoms

By Emily Seck
Media Credit: Josh Lawson
Technician Online

Being a member of the dance team takes more than knowing how to shake a pair of pompoms, according to the team's captains. It requires working out on a regular basis, marathon practices and the ability to complete a triple pirouette.

But those are only basic prerequisites, they said. For the captains of one of the most visible club sports on campus, it takes leadership, dedication and thick skin.

It also helps to have understanding boyfriends.

"At first, our boyfriends were like 'Yeah! You're on the dance team,'" Ashley Beasley, a senior in biological sciences, said. "Now, they're like, 'We hate the dance team. It takes up so much of your time.' Dance owns us. Dance is our life, especially this season."

Beasley, along with seniors Lauren Strasser and Jenna Patkunas, leads the squad of 24 women. All three have been dancing their whole lives and have been members of the team for four years.

Although the team's season spans the entire school year -- it begins practicing in the fall and ends with its national competition in April -- it is not recognized by the University as an official sport. In other words, the team must finance itself.

"We have to raise all of our money," Strasser said. "Each girl is responsible for $400 a semester of sponsorship for themselves from the community. That's the majority of our funds."

This year, the team was able to earn a partial bid to the national competition on April 10 and April 11 at Daytona Beach, Fla. because of its second-place finish at the National Dance Association's summer camp.

In addition to the burden of fundraising, the captains must take charge of the rest of the squad. Because the team is a club sport, the coaches volunteer their time to help the dancers.

"We pretty much run our team," Beasley said. "Other team that are sports, their coaches run them. Our coaches are great, but they have their own jobs and their own lives."

All three girls have been members of the team for their entire college careers, but thatÕs not the typical scenario. Many dancers quit after just a few months.

At the beginning of the year, 35 women comprised the team. Now, 24 remain. According to Strasser, a senior in biological sciences, many don't realize the enormity of the time commitment.

"We practice Monday through Thursday from 6:45 to 9:30 every night," she said. "We run at least two miles before every practice. It's not just warm-up dance, no. We work out hardcore before every practice. Then we'll have games either during the week or on the weekends."

And that's on top of a full school load and the community service commitments required by all club sports.

On April 6, the team will have a dress rehearsal at Reynolds Coliseum to showcase its routine for national competition. Beasley said the performance gives prospective members a chance to see the skill level required to make the team.

"A lot of people underestimate what you have to do to audition for the team," she said. "They'll come in and see what we do on the basketball court or the football field and assume we don't do anything challenging. But as soon as you walk into our audition, it's skills; it's leaps; it's all the stuff we do at nationals. A lot of people will turn around and walk right out the door because they don't understand that it's more."

Because the team is so visible at football and basketball games, members are often recognized on and off campus. It might be an old man wanting a hug. Or it could be someone who found them on Facebook.

"They'll be like 'You're on the dance team, aren't you?' And we have no idea who they are," Patkunas, a double major in accounting and international studies, said.

But reaction to the dancers isn't always positive, according to Beasley. While the team has plenty of supporters, it's also been criticized for everything from its clothing to the weight of its members.

"People will say 'I thought the dance team girls were supposed to be prettier or skinnier,'" Beasley said. "It's not like we're not working out everyday or running everyday. A dancer body is different than a cheerleader body, and a lot of people will compare us to them because we're on the court at the same time. We're average-sized girls. If I'm not stick thin, then I'm fat to some people."

But through it all, the girls remain steadfast in their passion for dance.

"We love what we do," Strasser said. "It's worth it. We do work hard. We don't just shake our poms. We're more than that."

So, with nationals steadily approaching, the free time will diminish. Practices between basketball games will stretch on for hours.

And, for now, their boyfriends will have to spend a few nights alone.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

FAU Dance Team Calendars For Sale

FAU Dance Team calendars are now available for purchase on the teams' official site. The calendars are a fundraiser for the team to attend ProDance Collegiate and the 2009 UDA Nationals. Calendars are $15 for non-students and $12 for students.

Checks can be made payable to FAU Dance and may be mailed to:

FAU Dance / Dyanne Loput
Oxley Athletic Center
777 Glades Rd.
Boca Raton, FL 33431

Feature On Former ECU Dancer

Williamson on Bobcats Dance Team

By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
Washington Daily News

Jennifer Williamson used to get a rush performing in front of the Minges Maniacs. But that pales in comparison to how Williamson feels when she struts her stuff in front of thousands of fans.

Williamson, a former ECU Dance Team member, is now a performer with the Charlotte Bobcats Dance Team.

While several eyes follow her every move, Williamson says the most gratifying feeling she gets is putting a smile on a little girl’s face.

“The most exciting part is all the fans that truly love us,” Williamson said. “There are people that love the dancers as much as the team. They want our autographs, pictures with us, or just to talk to us.

“The little girls look up to you and want to be just like you. I remember being that little girl myself once. Now I’m the one they are looking at. It’s such an inspiring thought. For me, that is the best part.”

While Williamson has danced in front of large audiences before, she still remembers her first performance at Charlotte Bobcats Arena.

“Performing in an NBA arena for the first time was unbelievable,” she said. “After doing this for so many years, you try to fight the nerves with thoughts like, ‘It’s just another stage, just a different place," or ‘I’ve got this; I’ve done it a million times before; I know what I’m doing.’ But in all actuality, our arena seats over 20,000 people. It’s a whole new level of excitement.

“There are thousands of eyes on you from all directions in the stands, cameras right in your face trying to capture close-ups for the big screens and for television, photographers lined up along the sidelines and the giant-sized NBA basketball players sharing the stage with me. It is so loud from screaming fans. I am smiling and dancing, feeling the adrenaline throughout my body, and trying not to trip over the camera guy and his cables.”

Williamson and her teammates do much more than just perform at games.

“The Bobcats organization plays a huge role in the Charlotte community, so we are constantly being asked to do things outside the arena,” Williamson said. “We do many charity events, general promotions for the basketball season, traveling promoting the team, parades and attending other local sporting events on behalf of the Bobcats.”

Williamson had to go through a rigorous tryout to make the team. She was one of over 400 applicants who signed up for auditions.

“The actual audition process consisted of a series of learning routines, performing them on the spot and casual interviews,” Williamson said. “A group of 35 finalists were chosen to go through the next two weeks of practices, drills and a formal interview with the coach and judges.

“Our interview was filmed to judge us on how we came across on television, due to the extensive media we are around. On the final night of auditions, we had to perform five different routines, perform with the group and sit rather impatiently waiting on the judges decisions.”

The judges and coaches picked 19 team members and four alternates. Williamson still remembers her reaction to hearing her name get called.

“I heard the words, ‘Contestant No. 4, Jennifer,’ and I completely forgot that was me,” she said with a laugh. “I was completely speechless. I ran down to the court, got my ‘Welcome to the team t-shirt’ and started taking pictures for the first time. It was during those first photo-flashes that it really started to sink in. All I could think was, ‘wow.’”

Now that she’s made the team, the attractive, athletic performer constantly works out to stay in shape.

“To even be considered at this caliber, you have to come with a certain ‘look.’” Williamson said. “You have to be physically fit from the beginning to make it anywhere near the finals. I usually go running two to three times a week. I have different aerobic routines I do on my own once in awhile, and each practice is basically two hours of cardio. It’s tough sometimes but, in the end, it’s worth it.”

It takes much more than simply being pretty and physically fit to compete at the next level. Going from high school to college is a giant step in its own right.

“To get to the next level in anything takes determination, discipline and a true commitment to whatever it is you want to accomplish,” Williamson said. “It takes a lot of work to continue performing in college. You are walking into a much bigger playing field, with more people who are just as good as you, others not so much, and some that are just too talented for words. You have to be physically trained as well as mentally prepared for the competition you face.”

Once an athlete has reached the next plateau, the work doesn’t stop.

“The work has just begun once the next level is reached. Goals are not only attained, but maintained. To stay where you are takes as much focus and responsibility, if not more, than what it took to get you to that next level. You sacrifice your personal time for practices, games and workouts.

“Most college dance teams support their football, men’s and women’s basketball, as well as baseball programs. They are spokespersons for the athletic programs, ambassadors for the college and representatives in the community. It is an honor, but with honor comes responsibility.”

Along with the physical work, Williamson said getting to the next level also takes a commitment and hard work in the classroom.

“Grades are very important in reaching goals,” she said. “Good grades are simply the result of persistent study, discipline and focus. You need good grades to get accepted into colleges in the first place. but the habits developed from good study carry over into dancing on a collegiate level.

“Most collegiate athletic programs require a minimum 2.5 GPA from each athlete, dancers included. You have to be able to commit the time and energy to all of the dance requirements as well as keeping good grades as a full time student — all without having a parent or guardian standing over you telling you what to do. You need to develop good habits, time management and self discipline to keep a good balance between being a student and being a collegiate athlete.”

Through her hard work, Williamson is now performing on one of the biggest stages imaginable.

“Dancing for the NBA has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” Williamson said. “By achieving this level, I am now a representative in the Charlotte community, supporter of professional sports and dance in front of thousands of fans two to three nights a week.

“I have 21 years of dance experience, (but all) were not always easy. I had to keep going through the good and the bad if I wanted to keep pursuing a dream. My dream was to be a professional dancer. It takes passion, dedication, commitment, hard work, focus and persistency. I did it, one goal at a time.”

Williamson is living her dream as a Bobcat dancer, and that dream gets all the sweeter when she can put a smile on a fan’s face. Especially a little girl’s face.

“For me, there is no greater feeling than being out on the court knowing that there is a little girl somewhere in the crowd, watching and saying, ‘Mommy. I want to be just like her one day,’” Williamson said. “I used to be that little girl, and now I have been blessed with the opportunity to inspire her to always strive for the next level.”