College Dance Team Central

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Coached By Peers: Kickboxers Start Fresh

By Sami Richards
Pacific Index Story with video

The Kickboxers dance team is starting this basketball season off with a fresh outlook as a completely student-run club.

Last year's coach, Cassie Law, was unable to return due to health issues and the previous coach of almost eight years retired to start a family. As a result, the coaching responsibility has been left in the hands of returners, junior Kim O'Rourke and senior Brooke Arndt.

"I actually think the team is going to be better this year," said O'Rourke. "As individuals, no one is substantially more experienced which has turned out well because as a whole we look really good."

The team's almost three-minute routine, to be performed at the half times of the Saturday, Sept. 22 basketball games, according to O'Rourke, only took about one hour to learn for the unusually young team. Comprised of almost entirely new recruits, with just two returners other than the coaches, the Kickboxers have high hopes for a successful season.

"This is something just for fun," said O'Rourke, "I continuously remind everyone that we are here to make new friends and dance; it is a nice break from classes."

To keep a serious atmosphere though, the team had a full four days of tryouts and Professor Jeannine Chan will be serving as the teams advisor for the season, helping the group to remain recognized as a club on campus.

"It is not as much pressure without an official coach, which makes it a little easier to enjoy ourselves," said O'Rourke.

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Split Personality For Family In Utah-BYU Rivalry

Alpine's Mowers manage a split personality during BYU-Utah week
Daily Herald
By Beky Beaton

So what determines team loyalty when a family has a split personality?

For the Doug Mower clan of Alpine, the answer is easy - blood.
Blood relation, that is.

Doug and wife Jody are BYU alumni. Oldest children Mindy and Matt are BYU graduates, and Katie and Tyler are current BYU students. Katie is also a member of the Cougarettes.

So, it would be easy to assume that this is an enclave of avid BYU fans.

Not so fast.

Second son Clint is the fly in the ointment, so to speak. He just happens to be in his senior season as the deep snapper for the Ute football team.

"Even though most of my family went to BYU, I never really had a side growing up," Clint said. "Once I came up here, my whole family converted to being Utah fans. They totally support me."

The player added that he's received a surprising amount of encouragement from his friends and neighbors too, even though his family lives right in the middle of Cougar country.

"There are a lot of people in my parents' ward who follow my team and make comments to me when I'm home," Clint said. He also gets some of the younger residents asking shyly for autographs.

He called Katie a "closet" Ute fan, but she said she makes no effort to hide it.

"I was definitely a Ute fan before I got to BYU and I'm still a little red," she said. "I'll always cheer for my brother."

That loyalty didn't get in the way of her pursuing her own dreams, however.

"I always knew I wanted to try out for the Cougarettes dance team because they're really good," she explained. "They're one of the reasons I applied to BYU, and when I made the team, BYU seemed the logical choice. It has worked out very well for me."

Clint returns the support he gets with some of his own. When he can, he goes to BYU games to watch Katie dance.

The most recent opportunity was the San Diego State game. "Of course, I had a good excuse because we were going to play them next, and BYU after that," he said.

He still made a fuss in the stands until his sister's smile and wave showed that she had seen him. "It's fun," he said. "It works out really well."

Katie agreed.

"I suppose I should be a little bit more of an advocate for BYU," she said. "It might be a little different story if I was a boy and we were actually playing against each other."

Katie is a sophomore, but tomorrow's game presents a situation she hasn't faced before.

"It's funny," she said. "I was planning to go with my parents to the game and wear my red shirt with Mower on it, and then I found out they were sending the Cougarettes to the game as well.

"It will certainly be a little different to wear blue in Rice-Eccles," she added.

Despite her appearance for the Blue side, however, there's no question about who she wants to come out victorious in the game.

"I'd like to see my brother win," she said. "The girls on the (dance) team tease me about it, and I'm tempted to wear my red shirt to the practice the day before, but it's all in good fun. They understand its family, and you support your family."

For the parents, being there for both children has created a couple of interesting days, as well as spurring an expansion of their wardrobe to cover both the Blue and the Red.

BYU Homecoming weekend last year was one of those occasions. Doug and Jody watched Katie dance at halftime of the Air Force game dressed in blue, then drove to the airport and caught a flight to Las Vegas.

The arrived at UNLV dressed in red, just in time for the 8 p.m. kickoff.

The Mowers replicated the two-in-one-day feat again this year.

They watched Katie dance at halftime of the UCLA game, then changed clothes and drove up to Logan in time for the 6 p.m. Utah kickoff at USU.

It's a little easier when the schedules don't conflict, and of course, they attend during those events too.

Doug admits that he still likes BYU -- except when they play Utah. "We're rooting for the Utes on Saturday," he said.

"Clint's played on the team for three years and it's been a great experience," the father said. "We've gotten to know the parents, the other players and the coaches there, and we've had a great time. I'm definitely a Ute football fan."

Like his son, Doug has also been surprised at how many Ute fans have come out of the woodwork in the neighborhood, but that doesn't mean the Mowers escape any comment.

"A lot of our neighbors and ward members tease us," he said. "Last year on the morning of the (BYU-Utah) game, we found a big blue Y flag hung on our front porch."

So, did they burn it? Shred it? Throw it away?


They found out who left it there, eventually. They kept it for about half a year, and then gave it back, intact.

That result well represents the kind of civility you have to have to survive in a family with ties to both sides.

• Beky Beaton can be reached at

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GW Dance Team Ranks Third In Nation

Team to compete in national competition
by Jenny Avallon
GW Hatchet
Media Credit: Alex Ellis
Video: The First Ladies

The GW women's dance team, the First Ladies, will take the stage at the national dance championship next month in Florida ranked third in the nation - their highest preseason ranking ever.

The team performs at the Smith Center during basketball games, but team members said placing at the Universal Dance Association's national championship - held at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 18 and 19 - is their ultimate goal.

"We are obviously ecstatic about being ranked third," said team member Whitney Ksiazek, a junior. "We beat teams that have been in the top three for years - so breaking that precedent is huge. We have come so far and all of our hard work - we practice almost every day and have morning workouts twice a week - is really paying off."

During the national competition, the First Ladies will compete in both the hip-hop and dance categories. The team worked with two choreographers, who flew in from California to train with the dancers.

"Our nationals routines are very different than what we do at basketball games," Ksiazek said. "It is really our time to shine. It is what we really work towards all year long."

Head coach Alyssa Dagget, in her fourth year leading the First Ladies, said the team placed ninth in the competition last year, but the preseason ranking has them optimistic.

"With such a great ranking in taping, the team is excited to perform and improve their national ranking this upcoming year," Dagget said. The Division I ranking, which is based off a video submission, also means Universal Dance Association will cover some of the dance team's travel expenses to the national championship at Disney.

"The girls fundraise every year for the nationals trip, and fortunately this year they do not need to fundraise quite as much due to receiving a partial paid bid," Dagget said.

Now, after establishing themselves during the preseason, team members said they will continue to work hard until the national championship in January, practicing almost every day, working out twice a week and having double practice sessions for all but one week over winter break.

If the First Ladies place in the top three at national competition, ESPN 2 will air their performances in January.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Former UConn Dancer Joins Patriots Cheerleaders

Life in the NFL: Ledyard native Leah Krieger describes life as an NFL cheerleader

By Russ Morey
The Thames River Times

Growing up, 22-year-old Leah Krieger of Ledyard had many interests but a singular passion: dancing. Throughout her childhood and into her teen years, Krieger trained at the local studio, Alison’s School of Dance, where she learned various styles and the value of hard work. Looking back to those times, Krieger said she would have never believed it if someone were to tell her she’d end up as a cheerleader for the New England Patriots.

“Growing up I never thought I’d be a Patriots cheerleader,” Krieger said. “I never even contemplated cheering at all. I’m actually a trained dancer. I’ve been a dancer my whole life, and when I graduated high school I was really upset because that meant leaving behind my dance studio. So the first thing I set out to do once going to UConn was to try out for the UConn dance team. Luckily I made it as a freshman and I made the team each year after that.”

Krieger explained how following her passion at the University of Connecticut led to her first real taste of performing in front of large crowds, something that was quite different than what she was used to. Instead of performing on a stage in front of hundreds of people, she was performing on a basketball court in front of thousands, and at times, millions when the UConn men’s and women’s basketball games were aired nationally.

Majoring in business management systems, Krieger said her college years seemed to fly by, and before she knew it she was nearing graduation and confronted once again with those same bittersweet feelings over the end of her performing career. While she had already received a job offer to work as an IT auditor with a company based outside of Hartford, Krieger felt that she just couldn’t stop dancing yet. She had known two girls, one from her former dance studio and one from the UConn dance team who had tried out and made the Patriots cheerleading squad.

“I said to myself, ‘You know what? I’m not ready to give it up just yet. I still really love dancing.’” Krieger explained. “So I thought, ‘What the heck?’ and I went and tried out for the Patriots.”

Krieger said that knowing a couple of girls who had made the team previously made it seem a little more of an attainable goal, yet as she began researching what it entailed, she began to take this new challenge very seriously. Training months before the audition to look her best, Krieger showed up to auditions with approximately 300 other girls to compete for 24 spots.

The audition process started with an optional workshop (which is strongly recommended) that gave Krieger a better understanding of how things run and allowed the judges to become a little familiar with their potential recruits. Krieger explained that during the first round of auditions, the judges look at things like how fast the girls can pick up the choreography, athleticism, appearance, smile, and enthusiasm. After the first round of tryouts, the group of hopefuls went down from 300 to 55. At this time the 13 veterans who were still interested in being on the team and were still eligible (a Patriots cheerleader can only be on the team for a maximum of three years) joined the group, as even the veterans are required to try out every season.

In the second round of auditions, the 68 girls left were required to learn even more choreography, and, as Krieger explained, the judges weren’t necessarily looking for a perfect performance, but rather the most well-rounded dancers who were able to make a quick recovery after a mistake.

This group of 68 was then narrowed down to 35 girls, who underwent two weeks of boot camp, practicing with the team. They also met for one-on-one interviews with the head coach. After the two weeks, the final 24 girls were announced as the 2008 New England Patriots cheerleaders. Krieger said the feeling of hearing her name announced was almost indescribable.

“It was sheer excitement and joy and an overwhelming feeling of what’s to come,” Krieger explained. “I knew that all the hard work had paid off and there was still more ahead, and it was exactly what I had wanted. I had actually achieved the goal I had been working toward for months, and in a sense years, because it also validated all of my dance training.”

While ecstatic to begin preparing for the NFL season, Krieger soon came to realize just how hectic of a life she was about to lead for the next 12 months.

“Being a Patriots cheerleader is not a full-time job,” Krieger explained. “It’s a part-time job with a very, very extensive time commitment. Some people joke and say that it’s a part-time job but a full-time commitment, and it really is. We have mandatory practices two to three times per week, 12 months a year, and we do charitable and paid promotions, which we’re required to do by contract. All of us girls volunteer for them because we enjoy them. They’re a lot of fun, but they often mean traveling all over to the other side of Connecticut or to Massachusetts or Rhode Island, or to Maine. And, of course, game days. There really is a lot that goes into it.”

Krieger explained that the two or three practices during the week tend to last three hours or so while the Saturday practice lasts for six hours. On game days, practice is five hours before the game and then the game itself lasts for around three hours, yet the cheerleaders often stay after the game for autograph signings and other appearances. In addition, Krieger works full-time (50 hours a week) as an IT auditor, which requires her to travel to client locations all over the area.

Krieger describes her new life as a balancing act, joking that she is constantly on the road and basically lives out of a suitcase which has been a hard transition for her as she is not a light packer. But every Sunday when she steps out on the field, Krieger remembers why she continues to work so hard.

“Oh my gosh, it’s unbelievable,” Krieger said. “Performing for 70,000 roaring fans really does just take your breath away, and then you have to quickly catch your breath because you have to keep moving, you have to keep performing. It’s a very, very special experience. And now that I’ve gotten past the first few games where my mind was racing and I had butterflies in my stomach I’ve really been able to take it all in and enjoy it...and of course I’m hoping we make it to the Super Bowl; my fingers are crossed.”

And while her days don’t consist of a lot of lounging time, and some days she barely finds enough time to sleep, Krieger said she is thoroughly enjoying her first season as a New England Patriot and would definitely do it all over again. To those girls who may come from a small town, but have big aspirations, Krieger offers a message.

“Nothing worth achieving ever comes easily,” Krieger said. “It’s so much more satisfying when you’ve worked hard for something rather than when it’s just given to you. There were girls at auditions that I helped that I stayed after auditions with and I helped them really nail the choreography and take it to the next level. It was those girls who were even more thrilled when they made it because they worked that much harder to get there...With dancing, even if you don’t make it past the first cut, just keep your head up because one audition can always lead to another and every audition is going to make you a better dancer. There is just no downside to it in my mind, and if you stick with it, look where you can end up!”

Labels: , Features Ole Miss DT Member Stephanie

Sports Illustrated featured Ole Miss Dance Team member Stephanie as cheerleder of the week. Stephanie is highlighted along with other Ole Miss DT members on For the full photo gallery,
Click Here

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Lewis & Clark Dance Team Kicks Into Public View

by Sean Wilson-Shafer
The Pioneer Log

In its first year, the Lewis & Clark College Dance Team takes on the mission of making dance prominent on campus. Although relatively unestablished, the Dance Team is working hard to get ready for future sporting events and hopefully a show in the spring.

Many students may be confused as to exactly what the Dance Team is.

“The Dance Team is a performance group,” said Catherine Steitzer (’10), a member of the Dance Team. “It’s a student response to the lack of dance opportunities on campus.”

Steitzer and another member of the Dance Team, Mara Pfneisl (’10), both add that the group brings more of a constant and permanent presence of dance to the campus. Before the Dance Team was formed in the Spring of 2008, Dance Extravaganza was the only other dance related outlet on campus. The members of the Dance Team are hoping to carry on the excitement that comes from Dance Extravaganza and keep it going all year long.

The group practices twice a week to get ready for their performances. They are choreographed by Jamie Cassutt (’07), an alumni of LC. Cassutt choreographs and arranges all of the dances and is responsible for the groups overall style.

Pfneisl explains that the team’s style is very jazzy and they are trying to learn “technical dances.” At each practice, they work on these skills and focus on their semester goal of performing at the home football and basketball games. In order to accomplish this, the group always needs space to practice, which according to Kelsey Domann (’11), is a “big challenge.” Domann is in charge of finding practice space for the team and explains that because the team is new, it is hard to become established on campus.

To date, the Dance Team has performed once. They danced at halftime of the LC Homecoming football game to Guns and Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle”. Members of the team explain that the conditions weren’t the best for an inaugural performance.

“Despite the fact that our music was inaudible and the only time it rained that day was the three minutes and 50 seconds we performed, we had an excellent time,” said Domann. “It felt as though we were well received by the student body.”

Energized by the completion of their first performance, the dance team is ready to go back out and make themselves prominent on campus. The next performance will take place at the Nov. 1 game, where they will dance to “Thriller” by Michael Jackson

Besides their next performance, the dance team is excited for what’s to come. They plan to have other performances besides the ones at sporting events; ones that focus on the Dance Team itself. Additionally, they hope in the future to compete against other schools. Besides performances, the group is focused on diversifying their style.

As the team begins to gain prominence, Steitzer wants to tear down any misconceptions.

“We are not cheerleaders,” Steitzer said, “The LC Dance Team is a group of dedicated dancers looking to become established and well-recognized on campus.”

“Right now, dance at LC is an afterthought,” said Pfneisl. “We are looking to change that.”

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