College Dance Team Central

Sunday, April 05, 2009

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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