College Dance Team Central

Thursday, April 23, 2009

First Ever International Cheerleading Competition Brings World's best to Disney

More than 100 national teams from more than 50 countries will be on hand for the historic event.

ORLANDO, Fla., April 22 -- For the first time ever, a world-wide cheerleading and dance team championship will take place, with national cheerleading and dance teams from approximately 50 countries descending on the Walt Disney World(R) Resort on April 23 and 24. The International Cheer Union anticipates 100 team performances over the two-day event.

The International Cheer Union (ICU) was developed in conjunction with more than 60 member countries. It is a non-profit governing entity for international cheerleading, with the goal of receiving membership applications from National Cheer Federations all around the world.

One of the key goals of the ICU is to promote and improve cheer programs worldwide, and this event will bring together the largest collection of international cheerleading groups ever assembled for one competition. The event is open to National or Provisional Cheer Federations.

"The United States is the birthplace of cheerleading but we have seen the sport blossom worldwide," said Karl Olson, secretary general of the International Cheer Union. "The ICU competition gives the world's best cheerleading and dance teams an incredible opportunity to serve as ambassadors for their countries in a sport that is grounded in pride, confidence and self esteem."

The United States has organized two National Cheerleading Teams, one coed and one all girl, as well as one National Dance Team, each featuring some of the best cheer and dance athletes in the country. The 60 American athletes that make up the USA Cheer Team were chosen at a tryout in December and announced in January. The USA Dance Team has 17 members

In addition to the teams from the United States, teams from as far away as Australia, Guatemala, Russia and China will be represented at the event, which will take place at the Wide World of Sports Complex.

"This is an amazing event for the global cheerleading and dance team community, and I am confident that this championship will enrich the sport's experience for the young athletes in each participating country," says Jeff Webb, president of the ICU. Jeff Webb is also the founder and CEO of Varsity, a global leader in cheerleading and dance team events, camps and apparel.

About the ICU

The International Cheer Union (ICU) was formed in 2007 as the non-profit international governing entity whose mission is to advance the sport of cheerleading on a global scale. With 60 member nations, the ICU represents the various geographical areas where cheerleading exists. Working with the International All Star Federation (IASF), the governing body of international all star teams, the ICU promotes healthy competition and rule development so that the sport can progress in a safe and organized way. More information can be found on


Hundreds Mourn Rebel Girl Killed In I-215 Crash

Lindsay Bennett died two days after a collision with a suspected drunken driver

By Jean Reid Norman
Las Vegas Sun

More than 500 friends and family members of Lindsay Bennett filled an amphitheater outside the UNLV student union Tuesday evening to remember the 18-year-old student who died Friday, two days after being hit in what police are calling a drunken driving crash on Interstate 215 at Windmill Avenue.

“I am in awe,” said her father, Mike Bennett, as he looked across the crowd.

“It’s incredible to know that Lindsay affected so many people,” said Talia Rothman, a Coronado High School senior who was on the school’s dance team with Lindsay Bennett. The team was selling T-shirts with Bennett’s photo and motto, “Follow Your Bliss” to raise money for a scholarship fund set up in her name.

Bennett was a freshman at UNLV majoring in architecture and a member of the Rebel Girls dance team. She graduated from Coronado last year and had been captain of the high school’s dance team her junior and senior years.

She would have turned 19 years old Monday.

Vladimir Lagerev, 45, has been charged in connection with her death. He was booked into the Clark County Detention Center on charges of death from DUI alcohol, involuntary manslaughter and no proof of insurance, according to detention center records.

The 1 ¼-hour memorial service included candlelight, a slideshow of photos of Bennett’s life, music and comments from UNLV Athletic Director Mike Hamrick, Rebel Girls coach Marca DeCastroverde, Bennett’s pastor and friends.

DeCastroverde called Bennett “everything I want my daughter to be like,” and fellow Rebel Girl Kristen Johnson was interrupted by her own tears as she sang “Held” by Natalie Grant.

Family friend Jo Velasquez, a clinical psychologist, described her visit to the hospital last week while Bennett was fighting for her life.

“I walk in and look at a dad’s face, and there’s a thousand pounds of stress. A momma looks washed over,” Velasquez said.

“This is the horror of every parent,” she said. “Every time you young people walk out of our house, we pray that you will come back safely, and this is why.”

Velasquez praised the family’s strength and generosity in the two days between the crash and Bennett’s death. They allowed scores of her friends in to visit, and then donated her organs.

“How many of us would have been so gracious to share the last hours and days with our child with so many people?” Velasquez said. “They were thinking in their darkest hour how they can help others.”

Velasquez challenged the crowd of largely young people to act in some way to honor Bennett’s death. She said when Bennett’s young friends think about going out for a night on the town, they should think about Bennett.

“Would you be willing to be a true and loyal friend to Lindsay and make sure you have a designated driver or not touch liquor?” she asked. “That would be your miracle.”

Jason Carter, who graduated from Coronado High School with Bennett last year, said Velasquez’s words hit home.

“This brought people together,” he said. “It changed people’s hearts.”


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

UALR Dance Team Coach and Choreographer Named

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.—The UALR Department of Athletics announces the hiring of Sara Beth Wyatt as the coach and choreographer of the UALR dance team. Wyatt is currently the coach and choreographer for the Sirens, the dance team of the Arkansas Twisters.

“We are thrilled to have Sara Beth join the UALR Department of Athletics family,” said UALR Director of Athletics Chris Peterson. “Her dance experience along with her coaching and choreographing experience should take our dance team toward the new direction we are seeking.”

The Little Rock, Ark.-native has had 20 years of dance training including the Little Rock School of Dance, Shuffles and Ballet II, Horace Mann and Parkview Arts Magnet schools, and Marymount Manhattan.

Before her stint with the Sirens, Wyatt was the movement instructor and choreographer at the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theater from 2003-06. From 2006-07, she was the dance teacher at DFW Artistic Experience.

Tryouts for the 2009-10 UALR dance team will be held on Saturday, May 23 at 10 a.m. at the UALR Center for Performing Arts. Preparatory classes for tryouts will be held on Tuesday, May 5 and Tuesday, May 12 at 4 p.m. at the same venue.

For more information about the UALR dance team and about tryouts, please contact Wyatt at Updates will also be posted at

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Towson Dance Team Returns With Another Title

Future is unknown for TU team after 11th win from College Nationals
By Ashley Rabe
The Towerlight

An unexpected trip and dramatic routine led Towson University’s Dance Team to their 11th straight national title.

The team, consisting of 29 members, traveled to Florida for the College Dance Team National Championship last weekend, returning with a rather unexpected attitude.

“It’s the same. It’s hard to believe, but we really don’t go there to win,” coach Tom Cascella said. “We weren’t going to go back this year and around Thanksgiving we decided to go and made it something different and weird.”

According to Cascella, after multiple wins the team debated returning this year, wondering what was left for them there. After much discussion the team agreed to return, but with a goal to do something very different than years past.

“We did a song and a routine about the battle between good and evil. Some of our members wore hoods so you couldn’t see their faces and one didn’t wear a hood and at the end she was killed and one of the evil people became good,” he said.

Cascella called the theme of their performance, abandoned hope with the ultimate moral being that good always prevails.

“It was really good, it was a different style routine that we did so we took a chance and took it in a whole different direction. We went 180 degrees than what we normally do,” he said. “It was a big departure for us, it was a dramatic presentation.”

Cascella began the search for a routine by listening to countless tracks and meeting with some of the members of the team at the beginning of December. The group settled on Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.

He describes the song as a classic that everyone has heard of and that it is dark and sinister, while still maintaining a strong theme.

According to Cascella, as choreography began, it did not go well, and that the end of the routine was not completed until about a month ago.

The future of the TU Dance Team is currently unknown.

“Were going to sit down in a couple weeks and figure out where we go from here. It’s a long time to win 11 years in a row and what do you have to prove?” Cascella said.

The team is only losing three members to graduation and will hold auditions this Saturday for interested students.

“I really don’t know honestly. We weren’t going back this year but we decided to go back. We’re just going to sit down and think about it and talk together,” he said.

According to Cascella, the questions that remain for him as well as the team is if they don’t compete at College Nationals, will they get high quality individuals to audition for their team? If they don’t compete what do they do? If they didn’t compete would they lose their competitive edge?

“We’re looking at the USO tour and other shops and clinics. We were thinking of maybe going to Japan. We have a lot of options,” he said.

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Auditions To Be Held For EIU Pink Panthers

Daily Eastern News

Auditions for the EIU Pink Panther Dance Team will take place April 17 to 19 in the Student Recreation Center with registration beginning at 4 p.m. in the Lantz main hallway. All incoming freshmen, transfer and current Eastern students with jazz, lyrical, kick and hip-hop dance experience are encouraged to audition.

Anyone with questions can contact Lisa Dallas at or at 581-3716.

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Hopefuls Crowd Into WSU Dance Team Tryout

Saturday’s all-day tryout featured 57 dancers with hopes of joining the Crimson Girls.
By Charles Westerman
The Daily Evergreen

Fifty-seven hopeful dancers showed up to the one-day Crimson Girls tryout Saturday at the Hollingbery studio. Eleven of the 16 slots on the roster were filled by returning members, leaving just five open to newcomers.

“We’re looking for well-rounded dancers,” WSU Dance Team Coach Erika Boruff said. “Someone who can do different styles of dancing, as well as represent WSU in a positive way.” Boruff is going into her second year as coach of the Crimson Girls. Last year, she saw her team place eighth out of 29 teams at the Universal Dance Association College Dance Team National Championship in Orlando, Fla. The Crimson Girls competed for the first time at the national championships in the 1A Hip Hop Division.

The team puts in at least 20 hours a week practicing, working out and performing during a nine-month period. In addition, members have to solicit donations to fund the program and perform well academically.

The Crimson Girls perform at a variety of events including football, basketball and volleyball games, as well as pep rallies, alumni gatherings and charity events. Members of the team are expected to be well-rounded and responsible.

Girls who make the team are given a small stipend for their participation, but they are not rewarded with an athletic scholarship. Dancers trying out for the Crimson Girls are looking to fulfill their fervor for dance, develop a strong work ethic and be a part of a team.

“Dance has always been a passion of mine,” said Jessica Garcia, a senior at Hanford High School in Richland who attended tryouts. “I’m really excited to have the opportunity to continue and be a part of the Crimson Girls program.” Tryouts lasted from eight to 12 hours, during which three cuts were made. Dancers who reach the final stage of tryouts learn and perform three routines throughout the day and also participate in interviews with the coaches. This year’s tryouts saw a competitive spirit with plenty of talented dancers.

“It’s nice to see girls who really want to support WSU, because being a Crimson Girl is definitely a supportive role,” said Ivy Wang, spirit program coordinator and assistant coach. “There’s not a lot of perks. It’s a lot of hard work, so it’s refreshing to see so many girls who want to commit to that.” This years Crimson Girls will attend a summer dance camp and will start practices a week before classes begin. WSU cheerleader tryouts will be held Saturday.

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Wisconsin-LaCrosse Dancing To Fight Cancer

The Racquet

Mark your calendars. This weekend is your chance to see guys in tights and girls shaking it all for a good cause.

The UW-L dance and football teams have once again teamed up to present the 3rd Annual Rob Wagner Dance Benefit. The entertainment takes place this Saturday, April 18th at 7pm and Sunday, April 19th at 4pm. This year's proceeds are going to Gundersen Lutheran Medical Foundation's Steppin' Out in Pink event.

The show was originally organized to raise money for UW-L student Rob Wagner who was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. The first show took place in spring 2007 and was a huge success. The turn out was great and around three thousand dollars was raised for Rob.

Everyone had a lot of fun, and because of the support from students and the community the group was excited to continue the tradition. At last year's show one large organization alone donated eighteen thousand dollars and overall the dance benefit raised twenty three thousand.

The dance and football teams were excited to tackle the challenge again this year and began practicing in early February. Practices have increased throughout the semester especially in the last few weeks before the show. The group currently practices three nights a week to put the finishing touches on the routines.

The dance team choreographs most of the dances but get a little collaboration, input and creativity from the guys.
Practicing for the show is a great change of pace for both teams who have an intense fall semester of games, competitions and rigorous practices.

"Practice is really entertaining, all the guys are hilarious and they're fun to work with," said freshman dance team member Kristen Burke. She went on to add that "working for the show really strengthens the team and its great to know our hard work is going for a good cause."

Despite the time commitment organizing and practicing for the show is fun and fulfilling according to dance team members. Past support from friends and family has helped raise a lot of money for a great cause.

Do not miss this wonderful opportunity to see football players strutting their stuff and shaking it to "Single Ladies." The show is interactive, fun, and very entertaining, the guys really get into each of the dances and show what skills they have off the football field. You will be surprised at how well some of them can move.

Senior and dance team captain Molly Koch added that each year the show is unique, "we try really hard to pick songs everyone will know and like." "We also try to add new tricks and lifts to all the routines to keep things interesting for us and the audience."

The entire group puts a lot of time and hard work into the show and hope that it is as successful this year as it has been in the past. The dance team and football team thank you for your support and hope you enjoy the show!

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New England Dance Team Takes Third Place

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The University of New England Dance Team took 3rd place in the Open Division II Finals of the 2009 Collegiate National Dance Championship held in Daytona Beach, Florida, April 8-11, 2009.

With a final score of 8.472, the Nor'easters trailed 2nd place Tarleton State University by only .022 points. Valdosta State College won the division with a score of 8.906.

The team qualified at prelims for finals on Thursday, April 9th and were seeded in 2nd place, trailing Valdosta State College, for Friday's finals Only the top five teams qualified.

"The best part was having complete strangers recognize us and compliment us on our routine," said senior Brittany Palm, co-captain and choreographer. "Last year, no one knew who the UNE dance team was, and this year we really surprised everyone, including ourselves! Next year, schools will recognize that we are a team to contend with."

"We would really like to recognize the efforts of our advisors," Palm added. "Their support was unconditional and the dedication unwavering. Backstage, they kept the team focused and really motivated us. They helped us perform our best. And Vicki Lloyd from the Centre of Movement dance studio volunteered her Sunday nights to help us prepare for nationals."

"I have worked with alot of athletic teams over the years and this team is one of the most committed and dedicated team I have ever been associated with," said team advisor Karol L'Heureux. "They are extremely passionate about their sport and their hard work has certainly paid off."

"This team works very hard at their sport and the rewards they receive are well deserved," said Coach Robert Panetta. "They also carry a team grade average of 3.0 +, and I couldn't be more proud of them if they were my own daughters."

The dance team is student run. The team choreographs its own routines, organizes its own fundraisers, and runs its own practices.

The NCA/NDA Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship involved more than 10,000 cheerleaders, dancers, coaches, and fans taking part in the largest collegiate cheer and dance event in the world with some 220 colleges and universities represented.

Members of the Dance Team are:

Paige Beauregard '09
Brittany Bolduc '11
Kate DiVito '11
Marisa Dzioba '10
Kira Keough '09, Co-Captain
Kristin Keough '09
Rachel Mayer '10
Kailie Morrissey '11
Brittany Palm '09, Co-Captain
Brianna Pierce '11
Alexandra Regan-Bushway '12
Alyssa Yeager '11

The UNE team advisors are coach Robert Panette and club sports advisor Karol L'Heureux.

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Update on MCC Dance Team’s win, Flight Scare

By Ken Sury
Waco Tribune

Perhaps you’ve already read this story about the added excitement for the McLennan Community College Dance Company and the group’s emergency landing on the return trip to Texas after winning first place in Division III in the National Dance Association’s Collegiate National Championship in Daytona Beach.

Craig Allen, whose daughter, Paige, 19, is captain on the team, updated us this morning to tell us that his daughter said only a few bags of luggage were damaged when fire-suppression foam was released in the cargo hold.

He also says it turns out that there wasn’t a fire in the cargo hold after all, but a smoke detecting going off.

The National Dance Association’s Collegiate National Championship Web site has video from the competition.

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Two National Championships for Valdosta State

Daytona Beach, FL - Valdosta State clinched two more national championships in Florida Friday. The Red Hots, Valdosta State’s dance team earned the team’s second national championship in as many years with a stellar performance in the finals. The co-ed cheerleading squad also brought home a national championship, the first in the team’s history.

While the Red Hots were the top seed after the preliminaries, the co-ed team had to overcome Hawaii Pacific on the team’s way to the top. After finishing with the highest score a Valdosta State cheerleading squad has ever earned Thursday, the group followed it with a national championship performance to overtake Blinn College in the finals.

The all-girls squad had to face a little bit of adversity. The music stopped in the middle of the routine so the team had to start entirely over. Valdosta State recovered to finish third nationally behind Hawaii Pacific (first) and Fairmont State (second).

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

LBSU Dance Team Wins Division For First Time

By Megan Clancy

CSULB's Dance Team won the USA Collegiate Dance Team Nationals in Anaheim, where the Cheer Team and the Mascot also won first place, in late March.

Teams from all over the country attended the competition, and CSULB entered three areas: Cheer Small Co-ed, Mascot and Open Dance Division 1, according to Chance Decker, the Beach Pride Center coordinator.

According to ASI's website, the Mascot, Dance Team, Beach Band, the Cheer Team and ASI Commissions all are part of Beach Pride, intended to increase campus spirit through special events, promotions, competitions and other activities.

Next, the Dance Team competed against 12 other teams. Finally, the Cheer Team, coached by Eric Anderson, competed against seven teams.

"It is exciting for the Dance Team to win because they have never won this division," said Rey Lozano, Dance Team coach. “What was also exciting for the Dance Team is that they also won the UDA Collegiate Dance Team Nationals in January in Orlando, Fla.”

Dance Team members tend to stay on the team for two years only, since they do not only compete but also perform at sports events and school functions, Lozano said.

“Many of them come to practice sleep deprived,” Lozano said.

He also mentioned balancing practice sessions and commitments with school is very difficult for all team members.

“The girls worked so hard this year at becoming united as a team and looking like one, they understood the importance of this when it came to final performance, they were very successful at doing that in every way,” said Ange Andros, Lozano’s Assistant Coach. “They dedicated their time and energy to being the best they could be for the team and worked together the entire season and was proud to represent the school.”

Just Dance! was the girls’ motto that kept them going at the two major competitions, Andros said.

Lozano continues to coach at CSULB because he said he wants to experiment with new elements of choreography.

Winning is tough because team members make mistakes sometimes, or unable to execute the material, Lozano said.

Lozano added that he sometimes over-choreographed routines which contribute to losing at competitions. Broadway shows, new music, dance concerts and Dance Team members inspire Lozano to come up with new choreography ideas.

“In the past four years routines have evolved into routines that tell the audience a story,” Lozano said.

According to Andros, Lozano’s choreography is very different which sets the girls apart, since it is very fast moving and exciting, leaving the audience wanting to see more.

Lozano also coaches the Dance Team members on nutrition and health.

He encourages them to take vitamin supplements and to eat well for the best performance at competitions and in shows, according to Andros.

“Members of both teams have to sacrifice personal time and vacations including Spring Break, and that’s what wins national championships,” Decker said.

Dance Team members are required to have advanced dance skills and high academic achievement at CSULB upon admission, according to Lozano.

Auditions for the Dance Team for next year is on May 5th, and auditions for the Cheer team is on May 8th and 9th, according to Decker. Team members must maintain a GPA of 2.0 to stay on the team, Decker said.

Unlike other sports at CSULB, team members on the Dance and Cheer Teams have to pay to be on the team.

Students can contact ASI to audition for any of the teams at (562) 985-2535. To view all the three performances, visit For more information about Beach Pride,

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Golden Dazzlers Growing At The Speed Of Light

By Gianluca Messina

Last fall, the FIU football team improved dramatically but not too far behind, another team made a flashy emergence and has caught the eyes of not only the university, but also the rest of the Miami community.

Enter the Golden Dazzlers.

With a grueling practice schedule that consists of two four-hour practices a week (a third one is added in the months preceding their annual competition) as well as a two-mile run at the conclusion of each workout, these young women have made a pledge to strive for perfection.

“Honestly, it’s something that you have to commit yourself to; it’s a part-time job,” co-captain Jennifer Puentes said. “You work really hard and you want to see it pay off.”

The Golden Dazzlers training regimens may be challenging but it is all geared toward a specific purpose.

“What they bring is another entertainment value to the games and that’s what the program is supposed to be about,” said coach Brenda Popritkin.

And the entertainment value that FIU enthusiasts are graced with when they attend most athletic events is what has prompted popularity that has increased progressively over time.

After the release of their highly-anticipated swimsuit calendar in December, which also included the FIU Cheerleading squad, the Golden Dazzlers are becoming familiar even outside the state of Florida.

“We’ve been selling the calendars online and I would say that more than half of the online sales have been from New York fans,” Popritkin said with a laugh.

While the team’s primarily responsibility is to perform at Golden Panther athletic events, they have also made guest appearances at many outside functions such as Zo’s Summer Groove, the Harley Davidson Kids Holiday Show and the Latin Grammys.

Besides being in high demand for appearances, the team is also rigorously preparing for their annual national competition in April that will pose a new challenge because they will be moving up to a new division.

Despite the popularity gained and the expectations of the team, these young women enjoy striving to improve what has become their passion.

“I’m obsessed,” said captain Vanessa Marrero. “I know [the team] feels the same way because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be here right now.”

“It’s amazing; I love it and its makes me really excited to see what’s going to happen next year,” said co-captain Lisa Sakowitz.

For Popritkin, the evolution of the team that she helped to form several years ago has been an upward incline.

With the year that the Dazzlers have had, it will be tough to match but then again, Popritkin’s previous predictions have been off.

“Every single year they get better because the bar gets set higher. I look at the squad [each year] and say ‘there’s no way we could going to get a better group’ and then it just happens,” Popritkin said.

The popularity that the Golden Dazzlers now possess is a testament to the effort of both Popritkin and the 19 young women who want to fulfill their purpose to the best of their abilities. Thus far, the trials and tribulations have paid off and it will only get better for the group who is constantly finding new areas of recognition.

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Minnesota Dance Team Travels to China


The University of Minnesota Dance Team was selected to represent the United States in China in early March. Ten Members of the team, along with Coach Amber Struzyk, made the long journey March 5-10 and even appeared on a television show in Changsha.

It was an amazing trip that created long lasting memories. From lost luggage to receiving celebrity treatment, language barriers to intriguing delicatessen, the trip was action packed.

It was a tremendous culture shock to be in a country where the words on buildings looked like art; however, it was the people of Changsha and the International Cheer Union that made it a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Three of the team members documented their journey to share with Gopher Fans in this blog.

DAY 1: Embarking on a New Adventure
7:30 PM rolls around and we are at the airport in Minneapolis getting our bags checked and ready to leave Minnesota. We are excited to leave America and dance on a Chinese television show, yet a little nervous for the culture shock. Many of us haven’t been outside the United States so there is much anticipation to truly be on our own in a country where we don’t even speak the language.

Our travel would take us from Minneapolis to Los Angeles to Seoul, Korea to Changsha, China. On the plane to Korea, we ate our first traditional Korean meal. The flight attendant helped me put together my bowl and watched me eat a huge spoon full of rice, beef, vegetables, and spicy sauce. He then waited for me to try the seaweed soup. It was good, but very different. The flight was great because the plane was huge and we were able to sleep. We watched movies which helped us calm down from all of the excitement.

When we landed, we were excited to see all that China had to offer but a little concerned about our luggage that was still in the United States. Imagine being in a strange country without even a comb? We decided there was nothing we could do so we just kept it positive.

We arrived at the hotel and went to dinner after a quick nap. Our dinner was quite interesting. Before we left for China, we talked about being open to the culture and trying new things; including food. Well I think we were. We tried rabbit, chicken soup with all the parts, including the head, and spicy pork. Rice was overall our favorite part of the meal. Chopsticks were difficult for us. Unlike in America, the chopsticks were our only option so it was learn to use them or go hungry. The servers tried to teach us how to hold them and most of us improved.

We went to bed excited for the television show but also hopeful that our luggage would arrive with a change of clothes, costumes and make up.

- Emily Dahley, 1st Year Member

DAY 2: “A Day in the Life of a Celebrity”
Our second day in China could not have started any better; our luggage was going to arrive. When the words came from our coach’s mouth, “Our bags are coming at noon,” the feeling of thankfulness filled the room. I never realized how dependent I was on my “things” until I didn’t have them.

We went to the TV studio and the most exciting part of the day was taping the show. When we first arrived, we practiced our routines on the stage. While practicing, the Chinese dance team watched and their reaction to our performance was priceless. I realized how lucky we were to get the chance to come to China and show them American styles of dancing. I was so proud to represent the team and the United States.

It was also great to watch the Chinese team perform. They definitely had an immense amount of love for dance. When they danced, the joy they exuded was infectious. It was amazing to see how something like dancing could bring completely different cultures together. While we watched, I said to one of my teammates, “It’s crazy how we don’t even speak the same language but just because we are dancers, we understand one another.” Dance is definitely universal and anyone can enjoy.

I couldn’t believe how Americans are viewed in China. They treated us like celebrities and were so respectful to us. They were so welcoming and wanted to know everything about us. Respectful is the word that I would use to describe the Chinese culture. What a day!!!! Things definitely took a turn for the better on day 2....more to come...

- Stacey Weyandt, 1st Year Member

DAY THREE: Sightseeing and Arriving at Changsha Middle School
It was a relief this morning to wake up refreshed with all our belongings and a change of clean clothes. The day would be action packed; beginning with sightseeing. In order to get to Hunan Normal University, we needed to take taxis. There are NO driving rules in China. Standing on solid ground after the whiplash of the crazy taxi ride never felt so good. A few students from the University met up with us to be our tour guides; like most people we met, they were GREAT.

As our sightseeing began, school was just getting out and there were children everywhere wearing really cute track jackets (I kind of wanted one). We were fascinated by all the kids and took pictures with them! Next, we stopped at the Yuelu Academy, which is over 1,000 years old. It was gorgeous, and exactly what many of us thought China would look like. The history and architecture was amazing and we took lots, and I mean lots, of pictures here.

Lesson learned: Uggs, Jeans, and a cute shirt are not appropriate mountain climbing apparel. The day had warmed up a bit, and all the stone steps we climbed (it seemed like three miles!), gave us quite the workout. After a few more stops, some heavy breathing, we finally made it to the top, and were exhausted. One of our tour guides decided to give us Chinese names and necklaces that went along with them. We were all thrilled with our names. The best ones were Kristie: “Egg” (ha-ha) and Amanda: “champion”! Before heading down the mountain, we stopped for an ice cream treat. After the food on this trip, it tasted great and I completely devoured mine. Unfortunately, the girls that got a green bean Popsicle weren’t so fortunate. They said it tasted like frozen chalk.

Our next stop competes for one of the best parts of the trip, and ranks as the most rewarding. It was our trip to the Changsha Middle School, where the dance/cheerleading students performed for us. Once again, it was like we were celebrities as the news and photographers followed us. We taught the kids a short dance and when they performed it for us, my jaw literally dropped. They were so good! They caught on quick, and were eager to learn and impress us.

Just like most everyone in China, they all loved the blondes (and Cooper of course), and we all took pictures and exchanged email addresses. It’s almost unexplainable how amazing and rewarding this experience was. We were honored we could share our dance experience with kids from the other side of the world.

Dinner was super fun that night. Everyone was in a great mood, lots of laughs were shared, and coach got us Pepsi! After dinner it was time to shop, and the hot spot for us was the scarf store. Thank goodness numbers are universal, because the communication between us and the shop owners was very limited. Around 10 pm with smiles on our faces, bags full of gifts, yawns beginning for a few, and stomachs growling, we headed back to the hotel. Coach and Cooper were the bearers of a treat that couldn’t make anyone happier: McDonalds and KFC. Yum! After a day of pictures, sightseeing, dancing, and shopping, there couldn’t be a better end.

- Janna Thomas, 2nd Year Member

DAY 4: Shopping and Returning to the United States
Waking up after our McDonald’s meal, we were all excited to come home. We missed the food and the comfort of home.

Before we left, we stopped at a Chinese store specializing in embroidery. There were fabulous silk embroidered tapestries, purses, etc. Television news crews were there when we arrived to “film the Americans shopping”. We felt like celebrities yet again.

After we bought gifts for our families, we headed to the airport. This time, our bags were getting back to the U.S. with us. While we waited in the airport, we reflected on our amazing trip. The food was different, but really good. The people did not always speak the same language; however, they were so polite and welcoming to us. They took days off of work to show us around and were gracious hosts. It was humbling and gratifying to witness firsthand the way of their culture.

We were treated so wonderful while in China and the people made this truly a once in a lifetime experience. Not only were we privileged to travel to a country like China, but we were incredibly honored to represent the University of Minnesota and the United States of America.

- Emily Dahley, 1st Year Member

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UMKC Dancing Into The Big Leagues

By Kevin Bryce

UMKC's Dance Team will travel to the National Championships this year, which will be a first for all of the women on the team.

Like many of UMKC's sports teams this year, the team is in a year of growth and rebuilding.

Though they will compete with a group of mainly freshmen and sophomores, they are still looking to be recognized as talented and competitive.

"[We are] making a name for ourselves in uncharted territory," team co-captain Shannon Hutsler said.

Coach Michele Morgan came on board with the Roos last year after coaching at the nationally-ranked University of Carolina for six years.

"I pretty much revamped the program last year," Morgan said. "My first year here was a transitional year. I worked really hard at recruiting and about half of my team are dance majors now."

All the girls on the team have had studio and dance team experience.

"The level of talent this year far exceeds last year," team co-captain Neisha Tardie said. "We come from more of a competitive background this year. Last year they kind of just got out there only for fun."

Seeing as the women all come from different backgrounds of dance, it can be difficult having the team flow together.

"This is the first year we've all ever danced together," Tardie said. "Twelve out of 15 of us are brand new. It's challenging meshing our different styles of dancing."

Morgan really wants to see the team succeed at the nationals.

She has bumped up practices from twice a week to as many as five times a week. She said there is a lot of practice involved in getting a group with different backgrounds to flow together.

"The routine is only 2 minutes and 30 seconds," Morgan said. "But it has to be so precise and every dancer has to look identical."

The team learned the routine they will be performing at the nationals this past January.

During the past couple months they've really spent a lot of time breaking it down.

"So really what we do is we dissect the routine," Morgan said. "[We have] gone back in, cleaned up everything, made sure that everything looks identical across the board. As we've continued to work on the routine, we've still had to go back and make some changes and additions and things like that from the original choreography."

The women performed at every home basketball game, but now they are able to focus more on the upcoming competition.

"We hadn't really been able to intensely focus on [nationals] until the end of basketball season," Morgan said. "So, the end of February, beginning of March was when we really started to hone in on things."

Beginning with an almost completely new team has made it a really exciting season, according to Morgan.

"Seeing what we've created throughout the year is probably my biggest perk," Morgan said. "We've come from a brand new team with brand new everything and now here we are getting to compete against the best teams across the United States."

Being close with teammates is one of the things that has made the process fun and easy.

"Having a tight-knit group of friends and teammates - just the process from beginning to end, it's enjoyable," Hutsler said.

The team set out new goals this year, challenging itself to reach highly competitive levels and to make itself known.

"UMKC has never been to a national dance competition before, so it's kind of hard putting our name out there when nobody has ever heard of us," Tardie said. "So, we've got to come on strong."

The Roos will go up against 200 of the best dance teams in the nation April 8 -10 in Daytona, Fla.

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UALR Changing Spirit Program, May Cancel Cheer Squad

By Bill Lawson
Lonoke News

Last year UALR’s cheerleading squad placed sixth in the nation and next year they may not even exist. Eric Bensing of Maumelle is one of those cheerleaders and he is upset — so upset he said he will probably transfer to UCA.

Nine-year UALR cheer coach Stan Tabor said he was told last week that tryouts scheduled for this spring would not be held and the cheerleaders would be replaced with a dance team similar to the 1980s Trojans in Motion, who were known for their spandex outfits more so than their dance moves.

Contrary to what Tabor says, UALR assistant athletic director Gary Hogan says no decision has been made.

Calls to athletic director Chris Peterson were not answered by press time.

Terri Hatcher, 41, of Cabot, said she is a typical UALR student who is a little older than other students. She said she thought the change was more about getting skinnier cheerleaders. Hatcher said she is in excellent physical condition and works out regularly in order to be able to do some of the athletic moves she does. But, as a mother and a woman whose metabolism is more like a 40-year-old than a teenager, she said she carries a few extra pounds.

“A lot of my teammates are transferring to UCA to cheer, but I will not be doing this,” Pennington said. “I do still plan on going to school at UALR and majoring in broadcast communication in hopes of becoming a sports reporter/broadcaster. Even though the news is horrible and hard to take in, my main focus is school and graduating.”

This was Pennington’s second year to cheer at UALR.

“I have cheered at UALR for two years. Last year we went to NCA Nationals and placed 6th in the nation,” she said. “Even though we didn’t win we competed against big schools like Louisville, OSU and SMU, these teams have been going to NCA College Nationals for years, no one even heard of UALR and we placed so high. We were all so proud when we made it into the Top 10 at prelims then at finals when we got sixth we knew we made our school proud.”

Bensing, senior public relations and speech communications major, was very outspoken in his remarks about the situation.

“I came to UALR only because I wanted to cheer there. I feel that the Athletic Dept. is heading in the wrong direction because without cheerleaders, the crowd can be lost at games. Every time the Athletic Dept. needed someone at a pep rally or an alumni event they called on the cheerleaders because we represent the school well. The AD just wants skinny cute girls to dance trashy and make all the older men that give them money happy,” Bensing said.

Tabor said his cheerleaders specialize in technical skills and that’s why they were chosen one of the top teams in the country competing against powerhouses like USC, OU, OSU, Texas. His team leads cheers, does tumbling, stunts and jumps. The 18-member squad includes three males and 15 females. Some of the females have to be athletic enough to lift others, help with tumbles and strong enough to be on the bottom of a pyramid. Thinner, smaller cheerleaders cannot do that, Tabor said, and that’s the direction he sees UALR going.

He compared UALR with other schools nearby. He said ASU has two cheerleader squads and one dance team and so does UCA. UA in Fayetteville has two cheerleading squads and two dance teams. Arkansas Tech has one of each, as does UAPB and UA Fort Smith, Tabor said.

There’s very little expense to the school for the team, Tabor said. He said the cheerleaders held fundraisers to generate enough money to pay for their uniforms and travel. He said there were many options UALR could consider short of abandoning the cheerleaders in favor of a dance team. Some schools have large co-ed squads with ten males and ten females. With that many males to catch and assist the women, the women tend to be smaller to function on top of the formation, Tabor said.

“The girls are smaller because they’ll end up in the air,” Tabor said.

Unfortunately, many of his serious cheerleaders will transfer, he said.

Hatcher, the mother of three — a 21-year-old college boy, a 17-year-old senior at Cabot High School and a 13-year-old girl at Cabot Junior High — said she wanted to be a cheerleader so she took private lessons and eventually made the squad. She has a part-time job at Little Rock Air Force Base coordinating the biennial air shows, which are huge productions with hundreds of thousands of attendees.

“I think I look athletic,” Hatcher said. “But I could afford to lose ten pounds.”

She also said having just cute little cheerleaders to entertain and going backward with the Trojans in Motion wasn’t the right move. She said she was in school at UALR in 1989 and tried out for the dance team, complete with the full spandex body suit, and didn’t make the team.

Tabor said his discussions with the athletic department have centered around body mass index, an accepted form of determining how fat someone is. “But an athletic person who can do all the acrobatic moves we require may test higher than normal — the same way a weight lifter will register a higher body mass than someone in less physical shape.”

At the national competitions, the UALR squad has been the most athletic there, Tabor said.

He said the school didn’t give them an option, just telling them the tryouts this year would be canceled and that next year’s squad would be more of a dance team.

He said he felt sorry for his team who has worked so hard to meet the demanding conditioning and strict rules he placed on them.

“There’s a lot of pressure on the squad, especially with the decision looming. Remember — most are just 18 to 19-year-old kids.

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Local Girl To Dance With MSU Dance Team At Final Four

By Julie Blaine • Reader Submitted
Battle Creek Enquirer

Lauren Blaine, a sophomore at Michigan State University will be performing at halftime of the MSU vs. UCONN game Sat., April 4th. The dance team performs at all of the MSU home football and basketball games. Recently Lauren traveled with the team to the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis where the dancers performed several dances. Lauren is a two year member of the 17 member dance team.

Lauren started dancing at Center Stage Dance Studio when she was 3 years old. She was on the competitive team at Center Stage until her graduation from Lakeview High School. While competing she won many awards including Dancer of the Year, Miss Jr. Motor City, Miss Motor City, Miss Teen Premier, and Miss Premier.

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