College Dance Team Central

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sass x7 Rutgers Dance Team Interview

Exclusive Interview with Sass x7 from 'America's Best Dance Crew'

From the beginning, the judges on America's Best Dance Crew seemed biased against Sass x7. It wasn't because they were the only all-female crew, but the fact that their background was from being on the Rutgers dance squad. On a show featuring mostly hip hop crews and dances, the slightly cheerleader-esque moves and routines of Sass x7 fought an uphill battle to get respect.

The New Jersey crew was eliminated in last night's second episode. BuddyTV spoke to Julia Swartz, one of the members of Sass x7, to talk about her experience on the show. Julia talked about how it was MTV that approached them about being on the show, the struggles fighting off the cheerleader image, and her fondness for the Fat Darrell. If you want to know what that means, continue reading for the highlights as well as the mp3 audio file to listen to the interview.

-Initially, producers from America's Best Dance Crew contacted the coach of the Rutgers University dance team to inquire about selecting several members to form a crew for this season of the show. The seven women were chosen and still had to go through the regular audition process.

-In light of this, Julia was somewhat perplexed by the judges' constant criticism of their style as being like a group of cheerleaders since the show sought them out. Still, Sass x7 was hopeful to prove they weren't a bunch of cheerleaders, and were excited by the opportunity to mimic the Britney Spears video so they could show off some smoother, more versatile skills.

-For the future, three members of Sass x7 will return to Rutgers to finish up their education and keep working on the dance team in the fall, while the other four are hopeful in pursuing dance careers. Several of them will likely try out for the dance team of the New Jersey Nets, while careers in Broadway or Los Angeles are also on the table.

-Finally, Julie revealed that, though she's obviously thin and athletic, even she has succumbed to the wonder of the Rutgers Grease Trucks. For those who aren't lucky enough to have visited this glorious landmark of Americana, the Grease Trucks are an arrangement of mobile eateries serving delicious “Fat” sandwiches that consist of every imaginable food being thrown onto a hoagie roll.

Julia said her favorite is the gold standard of Fat sandwiches, the Fat Darrell, a combination of chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, French fries and marinara sauce. Having grown up just 30 minutes from Rutgers, I have actually had the pleasure of eating a Fat Darrell myself and can personally attest to its greatness.

Red Hots are National Champs

By Chris Walsh
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA – The Valdosta State University Red Hots are halfway between winning their National Championship and getting ready for their next performance, but they feel as excited as ever for the start of the new football season.

“The past few years have really taken off for them and now they’re asked to do everything,” said Kelli Fields, coach of the Red Hots dance team. “We have 19 girls on the team, seven more than last year, from all over Georgia.”

The Red Hots can be seen at every Valdosta State football and basketball game. They can also be seen all over town, at pep rallies, fundraisers, and anything else they can fit in their schedule.

“Every year there’s something else they’re asked to do,” said Fields. “They are at the Blazer Walk, Hospitality House, dancing at VSU visitation days, and holding dance camps twice a year.”

The Red Hots, who have technically been around since 1995, just finished their second year of competitive dance. And how else would a VSU team do in a National tournament, but win it all.

The dance team led the whole weekend and came out victorious over nine other teams from all over the nation to win the NDA title.

“There was moments we thought we would win, and moments we thought we wouldn’t, but it was a big relief when they called our score,” said Brittany Lord, who has been with the team for three years.

“We were up to 1 a.m. the night before practicing and then had to get up at 5 a.m., but we did it.”

Lord is one of the many girls on the team that have watched it grow from more of a club team to an actually National competitor.

“I’ve been dancing since I was three, so it’s just a part of me,” said Lord. “That’s really why I came here, nobody else in Georgia has as good of a team.”

Another veteran on the squad is Julia Hughes, who has been with the Red Hots for four years. She is also called by her teammates the biggest VSU Blazers fan around.

“I always danced in high school with teams and in a studio, so it just felt weird not to be dancing in college,” said Hughes, who was also named the team’s MVP this year.

“It’s really cool. Every year we get new girls and new strengths we can progress on.”

For all the girls on the team the story is the same, they do it for fun and because of their love of dance. They practice three days a week, for two hours each time just for the fun of it, but winning it all was nice.

“They don’t get scholarships and they don’t get paid,” said Fields. “So to be rewarded like that is validation for them putting in all the hard work and time.”

The dance team will return at the first VSU football game and they will be bringing even more to their shows this season.

“There will be new and exciting routines and new uniforms,” said Fields. “We will also have a clinic for high school and college girls thinking about trying out next year.”

To view the National Championship winning dance routines go to

Feature On CSUN Dancer

Antioch native dances into pop culture
By Jennifer Birkland
Brentwood Press

Antioch’s Tiffani Grant is no stranger to the stage. A dancer since age 8, she climbed the ranks in the distinguished Deer Valley High School dance program before graduating in 2004, is currently a member of the Cal State Northridge dance team, and is a working actor.

But recently, the 21-year-old danced her way onto the biggest stage of her career, landing a spot on the hit MTV series “Randy Jackson Presents: America’s Best Dance Crew 2.” She and her seven-person hip hop dance troop “Fanny Pak” are one of 10 crews from around the country vying for the title of “America’s Best Dance Crew” and a $100,000 cash prize.
Each week, crews battle it out live at Warner Brothers’ Studios in an effort to win over judges and the American public, whose votes decide who stays and who goes.

Grant, who majors in kinesiology at Cal State Northridge, is unavailable for comment until the show ends or her crew is eliminated. Every Thursday night her family and friends gather to watch her compete.

“It’s been so thrilling to watch her on TV,” said Grant’s mother, Dena. “She’s been working so hard for so long and it’s just great to see it all pay off. I’m so happy she’s living out her dream.”

Grant and her fellow Fanny Pak-ers met while taking dance classes together in Southern California and it wasn’t long before they were choreographing their own routines. Sporting their signature accessory, the fanny pack, and bright ’80s-style clothes, the dancers’ unique hip-hop style caught the attention of the judges, who selected their crew out of hundreds that auditioned.

In the show’s first episode, Fanny Pak found itself in the bottom two crews, in danger of elimination, but was spared by the judges.

To prevent another close-call, Grant’s family and friends are voting as often as possible once the live show ends.

In support of Grant, who choreographs all of her crew’s routines, the Deer Valley High School cheerleaders are enlisting the help of students to call, text or go online to vote for Fanny Pak.

“America’s Best Dance Crew 2” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on MTV. To vote or for more information about the show, visit

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Rutgers Alums and Students to Appear on America’s Best Dance Crew

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Seven former and current members of the Rutgers Dance Team have been selected to compete on the second season of Randy Jackson Presents: America's Best Dance Crew, which premieres on Thursday, June 19th at 10pm ET on MTV.

Dance crews from across the country will showcase their fancy footwork for the opportunity of a lifetime, with a cash prize of $100,000 awarded to the winning dance crew. The competition is fierce and the stakes are high as the crews battle it out live onstage for dance supremacy. Each week they'll step up to the challenge and show off their skills, and each week one crew will be eliminated until America's Best Dance Crew is revealed. Viewers will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite teams each week to determine who stays and who goes home.

The group from Rutgers will be competing as "Sass x 7", and will choreograph their own routines each week. Team members include recent Class of 2008 graduates Julie Swartz, Mandee Cilento, Felicia Rembert and Dominique Conti, as well as current Rutgers Dance Team members Lindsay Ritter, Becca Lee and Madeleine Camacho.

For information on the show and to see Sass x 7's performance from the June 10th casting special, visit and click on America's Best Dance Crew under the "Shows" menu.

Be sure to watch each week and cast your votes for Sass x 7!

Officials Say Cheer's Merge a Result Of Safety Concerns

by Allison Denny
Photo by Jeffrey Lowman / THE STATE PRESS
ASU Web Devil

Amid athletic cuts, members of ASU's former 15-member, co-ed cheer squad blame its merge with the school's dance team on money, not safety concerns cited by ASU officials.

The merge follows a nationwide trend in high schools, colleges and universities to eliminate stunting and tumbling because of safety concerns said Mark Brand, associate athletic director for communications.

"We've had cheerleaders, and we've seen cheerleaders — male and female — around the country get hurt recently, and we can't take that chance," Brand said.

According to the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Advisors, 64 cheerleaders at the high school or college level sustained fatal, catastrophic or serious injury between 1982 and 2005. In the same time period, 698 high school and college football players sustained the same kind of injuries.

Under the new arrangement, the cheer team has been merged with the dance team, creating the new Sun Devil Spirit Squad.

The squad will fall under the control of Director of Athletic Bands Jim Hudson, instead of the athletic department like cheer did, Brand said. Formerly Hudson only controlled the marching band and dance team.

Hudson was brought over from Iowa State two years ago to lead the marching band, Brand said, and it became clear that moving band, dance and cheer under his jurisdiction would best serve the school.

"It just made sense for all of the cheer atmosphere, all of the spirit atmosphere … to be under one person so you could collaborate and make the fan experience the best we can make it," Brand said.

Secondary education senior and former cheer captain Brianna Barcelo said many schools are following in the footsteps of the USC, whose Song Leaders dance instead of cheer, eliminating potentially dangerous stunt and tumble moves.

"All over the nation, they're putting stops on cheer at all different levels," Barcelo said. "It is more risky, but it's also changed a lot."

Coaches and cheerleaders are highly trained, though, and accidents aren't commonplace, Barcelo said.

"Our coach is amazing. She would definitely not let us do anything we weren't able to do," she said. "We know all the precautions we have to do to make it safe for us."

Last year stunting was cut but the cheerleaders slowly fought against the athletic department to bring it back, Barcelo said.

"I guess in a way it's almost an every year battle," she said. "I worked my butt off to be able to be on cheer. Now it just kind of sucks.

"It's my senior year and I won't be able to do it again."

Barcelo said it was clear that the merge had to do with money when ASU announced just weeks later that wrestling, men's swimming and men's tennis would be cut.

Wrestling has since been reinstated after the team came up with an $8 million endowment.

Right around the time the merge was announced, a picture of former and current ASU cheerleaders in their bras and underwear was posted to, a gossip Web site that reports on 40 cities and 24 universities around the country, according to its Web site.

Barcelo said the pictures on The Dirty had nothing to do with the merge.

"The news finds anything to focus it on and blame," Barcelo said. "It was the media that made [those rumors] up, pretty much."

Brand said ASU officials told the cheer team about the merge on a Tuesday night and didn't know about the pictures until the next day.

Because the pictures came out around the same time as the announcement, Brand said people assumed one caused the other, but the move was in the panning stages for a long time and the two incidents are unrelated.

"There was nothing that led to a snap decision," Brand said. "It had nothing to do with money. It had nothing to do with Internet pictures. That was a total coincidence."

Elementary education senior Katelyn Jones was on the cheer team for three years and said ASU's safety concerns over stunting and tumbling are a cover-up.

"It was all just about money," she said.

The team learned about the merge just 10 days before tryouts, Jones said, and the cheerleaders were never asked their opinion or given any advance notice that the merge might happen.

"It's just very upsetting and very discouraging that they came and took it away from us with no warning and no notice," Jones said.

Still, all the cheerleaders were encouraged to try out for the new squad, she said.

"We were all upset and angry but took their word and took a shot," she said. "Marketing had implied that [we] would make it."

Of the 15 cheerleaders — most of whom tried out for the new squad — only three made it, Jones said.

Brand said no such promises were made, though.

"The cheerleaders, male or female, had to try out year after year," he said. "No one was told that they were going to make it."

Jones said she came to ASU for cheerleading.

"For it to be gone is really upsetting," she said. "That's all I know. It's my passion. It was a challenge for me. It meant everything to me."

Jones said she tried out for the new squad but didn't make it.

"It'll be a different experience sitting in the student section," she said.