College Dance Team Central

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."

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