College Dance Team Central

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Penn State Feature; Dance Team Becomes Second Family

By Jocelyn Syrstad
PHOTO: Chloe Elmer
Daily Collegian Online

When Karley Chism first arrived in Spain for her semester abroad, she found she was missing something -- her sisters.

Chism is a twin, but that wasn't the relationship she was talking about. She was referring to the 26 other members of the Lionettes dance team.

Dance team members consider their bond with one another greater than just being friends. They see the team as a second family.

Senior Alexandra Costello even pointed out that nine of the dancers live together in a house off College Avenue, and many more are roommates elsewhere.

"It has been so difficult being away from the team and the girls this semester," Chism wrote in an e-mail. "Dance team has helped me create so much of who I am. My teammates are amazing. We are all like sisters. It's really tough not being able to dance and perform, which is such a passion of mine, and it's so difficult not to see all of my close friends everyday."

The dancers said the reason they have become so close is in part because of their tremendous respect for one another. The team is self-run -- meaning there are no coach -- so the Lionettes work together to ready themselves for performances and competitions.

At practices, one dancer will teach a dance to part of the team while the others sit against the mirror critiquing what they see, making sure the team is ready to perform.

All choreography and music is approved by the captains. The dancers are held responsible for cutting their own music and putting together their own moves and formations for every dance.

"We're all leaders on this team because we don't have a coach," senior captain JoAnn Esposito said. "When we all get in that room we all know we're there because we want to be there and not because someone's telling us exactly what to do. It's definitely shaped us."

While the dancers admit they work well together without a coach, it does come with some struggles and adjustments.

For freshmen or new members of the team, it can take some time to get used to taking direction from their peers. Nearly all of the Lionettes were members of their high school dance teams or danced for their hometown studio prior to making the team.
Coming from that background, the dancers are used to following the lead of a coach or an instructor. It is an adjustment nearly every team member needs to make their first season.

"It's a huge change in dynamic, because you don't have someone telling you what to do next," said junior Marisa Pollack, who joined the team after her freshman year. "It's all about your own motivation and determination to be the best dancer you can be."

Once the team members get over the initial shock of not having a coach, they are then faced with the struggle of having to discipline their own teammates.

The dancers don't see a lot of drama on the team, so disrespect and discipline isn't a huge issue -- but it is something that can take them out of their comfort zone.

"It's very hard being in a captain position, because that team is literally my best friends," senior Erin Zoch said. "You have to get to a level where they respect you enough not to fool around but also remember there's a line of friendship. We still love each other, and when you love somebody, you respect them."

Though the Lionettes are without a coach, they do have a mom. Sue Sherburne, an academic adviser to the Lady Lions basketball team, acts as a voluntary adviser to the dance team. She has volunteered with the team since 1998.

Freshman Melissa Diehl said Sherburne is helpful to all the dancers and wants to make sure they are all OK. The Lionettes know they can turn to Sherburne with any problem they have -- whether it's dance related or not.

"She's been a great go-between for them," said Penn State cheerleading head coach Curtis White, who is also a close friend to Sherburne. "She oversees it to make sure it's all working out well, but she also gives them a lot of freedom to make decisions on their own. She's great for them."

While the dancers feel honored to have Sherburne there for them, the adviser is also proud to work with them.

She often boasts about the Lionettes' cumulative GPA of 3.6, which has stood for the past three semesters. She also is quick to mention the dancers are great role models for other young women.

"It's a really rewarding experience," Sherburne said. "I feel very fortunate to work with them. They're a great group of girls. It's a valuable experience, and I'm pleased with the fact that they all have a great overall perspective and that it's not linear."

The women see their experience on the team as rewarding as well. The bond they share with one another has helped them see success even without a coach, which is unusual for a college dance team.

The result of their hard work was displayed at the National Dance Association (NDA) national competition last spring, when the Lionettes finished in fourth place. Pollack said that accomplishment, completed without a coach and as a family, brought instant tears and screams of pure excitement.

Doing everything on their own provides a sense of achievement for the dancers every time they step out to perform.

"We all come together and work," Zoch said.

"That's the most rewarding thing, just coming together and you feel the energy and want from every person on the team. We're all one big family, and everyone is dedicated to making us better and better."

Even those not members of the dance team admire the bond.

"I have two daughters who are 11 and 14," said associate athletic director for marketing and communications Greg Myford, who also works closely with the Lionettes. "When I look at these girls, I would like to think that I would be endlessly proud of my daughters if they turn out like these girls. I think that's the ultimate compliment you can give to someone."

Labels: ,

Dancing Through Stag Life; Fairfield Dance Team Feature

By: Renee Borghesi
The Fairfield Mirror

The buzzer echoes throughout the arena. Halftime. Ten girls run out to the middle of the court, getting into position. They have two minutes to show everyone what they can do, to put together what they have been practicing for two weeks and make it look effortless.

While the first strains of music blare over the loudspeaker, last-minute nerves are shaken off before the twirls, jumps, and intricate dance steps are performed perfectly synchronized to the lyrics. Shouts of approval from students are heard from all directions of the venue while fans wandering off to the concession stand stop to watch.

The Fairfield University Dance Team performs at all home men and women’s basketball games both on campus at Alumni Hall and off-campus at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport. They perform during timeouts and do a longer routine at half time. During the game, the Dance Team cheers on the Stags from the sidelines.

“It took me awhile to get used to the fact that I was standing on the sidelines for every second of the game,” Deirdre Neubauer ’11 remembered about her first year on the team. “I remember being very nervous my first game because I wasn’t sure what I was doing and every timeout we were doing something different.”

Rachel Greco ’13 felt the same way the first time stepping out onto the court.

“Once I started dancing, the nerves went away,” Greco said. “Now when I go out there, it’s really fun.”

Unlike most other teams or clubs on campus, the Dance Team successfully takes care of itself and the girls are rewarded for their efforts with personal satisfaction and bringing entertainment to those who watch them. Being a member of the Dance Team is completely voluntary and members do not receive class credit. All of the dances are made up by the members, so everyone gets a chance to create a halftime or timeout routine and see it performed at the games.

“We put a lot of time and effort into the team, which shows our commitment and love to the art of dance and performing,” captain Hailey Conn ’10 said.

The team had been without a coach for some time until Marie Chaisson stepped in at the end of the 2007-2008 school year. Chaisson’s background is in cheerleading, so coaching both cheer and dance has been a hard balance to find. Chaisson acts as the liaison between the athletic department and Dance Team and helps with logistics like budgets, but the dance aspect is left up to the team, said Conn.

The Dance Team’s dedication has been met with success. They do more than entertain crowds at basketball games, these young women take Stag fever on the road to represent Fairfield University throughout the state and country.

The Dance Team was only three spots away from making the finals at the Universal Dance Association National Championship in Disney World and finished in the top 20, ranking 8 spots higher than last year.

“It’s only the second year that the Fairfield University Dance Team has been there, so every year we will grow even stronger,” Greco said.

Although Nationals is a highlight experience for members of Dance Team, it isn’t all fun and games, said Neubauer. The dances for Nationals are more intricate than the ones performed at games; the team performs one contemporary and one hip-hop dance. They start learning the two routines by the end of September and work continuously until Nationals, which are held in the second week of January. This year, the team came back to school a week early before Nationals for three or four hour practices twice a day and spent almost 24 hours together each day of that week.

“Spending all of that time together as a team has bonded us in ways not everyone will find in college,” Conn said. “The team has made lifelong friendships, and when we perform together you can see how close we all are.”

Labels: ,

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Minnesota Spirit Squads Light Up Nationals

The University of Minnesota spirit squads turned in a dominating performance at the recently completed UCA/UDA College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

The squads took a timeout from cheering on the Golden Gophers from the sidelines on Jan. 15-18 and claimed five top-7 performances, including a double national championship by the dance team.

Traditionally one of the nation's strongest programs, the Gophers were once again on top of their game led by the dance team's first-place finishes in both the jazz and pom categories.

"The entire squad was just unbelievable and I could not be more proud of their performance," said head coach Sam Owens. "This competition was extremely fierce, but the overall performance the team turned in was one of the best I have seen and the results really speak for themselves."

After taking third in last year's competition in jazz, the Gopher dance team took their performance to another level to capture this year's national title. The squad then doubled up by taking the top spot in the pom competition.

"Once again the dance team was simply outstanding," Owens said. "Their routines were crisp and clean and the scores reflected just how good the performance was. They were on top of their game."

Goldy Gopher also turned in a stellar performance as the precocious rodent nabbed third place in the mascot completion.

No to be outdone, the Gophers All-Girl and Co-Ed teams turned in top-7 finishes as well. The Co-Ed squad captured sixth place in just its second appearance ever at national, up from ninth last year. The Co-Ed Squad, meanwhile, placed seventh to make Minnesota the only Division IA squad to post top-10 finishes in all divisions.

Teams from 43 states and 152 universities and colleges competed in the 2010 College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship, which celebrated its 26th year of competition.

Labels: ,

Creighton Dance Team: All Smiles

By Patrick Marshall

Think for a moment of a young adult proudly wearing a university’s colors while performing out on a court in front of more than 15,000 screaming fans. The spotlights are focused squarely on their every move, and they fear they will not be in sync with their teammates. Any mistakes they make are scrutinized.

You’re correct if you pictured an athlete. But it isn’t a basketball player. It is a different type of athlete. It is a member of the Creighton Dance Team.

The members of Creighton’s dance team are an integral part of promoting Bluejays athletics. They show up to the school’s sporting events wearing bright smiles and White and Blue uniforms, often performing from the opening tip, through game time, during timeouts, and even halftime and intermission. And these student-athletes commit even more time and preparation outside the fields and courts of play to put the best possible dance team together each year. Here’s an inside look at the Creighton Dance Team.

While cheerleaders and pep squads inspiring school spirit at college campuses is a long-standing tradition in collegiate athletics, the modern iteration of Creighton’s cheer squad dates back to 1979. That’s when longtime Creighton Education Department employee Judy Streitz organized the dance team, which isn’t to be confused with the co-ed cheerleading squad that the school disbanded in the early 1990s due to liability issues. The dance team is separate, has survived through the years, and is a University-sponsored spirit team.

The squad consists of 12-18 young women who work throughout the season at all home events, starting with volleyball games and a select number of men’s and women’s soccer matches in the fall. They perform at all home men’s and women’s basketball games, they travel to both the Men’s and Women’s Missouri Valley Conference basketball tournaments, and then end the school year performing at some baseball and softball home games. That adds up to roughly more than 100 sporting events as well as other appearances on campus and throughout the community.

The Dance Team is registered as a student activity on campus. They are partially supported by the Athletic Department and the Creighton Student Union, but they still seek outside sponsorship. Currently, Superberries is their major sponsor and the team helps find minor sponsors for the basketball programs. The dance team holds several fund raising events to help pay for their uniforms — the most expensive part of being on the team. The captains receive a plethora of catalogs to piece together uniforms. Then they meet with the moderator to narrow down some appropriate choices, taking cost into consideration. Then it is up to the team as a whole to approve the outfits.

Putting the Team Together
But forget about putting together the clothing; how does the team come together? It all starts with Alynne Wize who serves as moderator for the dance team. In her role, she oversee tryouts (recruiting, securing location/date/time, hiring judges, tallying scores, and posting the final team selections), elections for officers, guiding the officers in their roles, ordering uniforms for the team, scheduling appearances in the public, and the team’s in-game management.

That’s right, tryouts. Wize works with Creighton’s Admissions Department every year and speaks to any incoming freshmen about their interest in the team. She’ll speak to interested students’ parents and answer any questions they might have about Creighton’s dance team.

There are audition guidelines, which include the tryouts in early April. Members already on the squad have to tryout from year to year and are not guaranteed a spot on the next year’s team. There are stringent requirements as defined in their bylaws to stay on the team as well, including maintaining a certain grade point average and completing a strength and conditioning program. In fact, the dance team works with the same strength and conditioning staff as the other Creighton student-athletes, and separate circuits are developed for the team and then altered as needed.

A lot of the women on the dance team participate simply because they enjoy the performances and have danced all their lives. There is not a scholarship system in place to help the dancers with financial aid. However, there is a small pool of money members can earn from based on the team’s Constitution:

Monies provided by CU Athletics will be distributed fairly amongst members. The distribution will be based on the following criteria, in order:

1. The member’s need
2. The member’s eligibility
3. The member’s attendance record
4. The member’s grade point average

Often the biggest challenge the dancers face is juggling their participation in the dance team with other opportunities. Dance team practice and performance takes priority over any other university or non-university event (other than classes or class-related activities). Thus, the team must work around academic schedules and the spring tryouts to organize practice time before and between the squad’s actual appearances.

The Performance
The Jays Dancers practice in the Old Gym or sometimes at the Kiewit Fitness Center. They get together over the summer to practice one day each month, but then also spend several hours in the fall and in the spring practicing. This doesn’t include, of course, the hours they spend together during the events at which they perform. The music, the choreography, and the practices are organized by the different officers in the group. They work with the CU Pep Band and the Blue Crew to coordinate in-game operations. A lot of effort on behalf of these groups goes in to providing Bluejays fans the best possible atmosphere at Creighton sporting events.

To get ready for each event, the team arrives one hour before the game. So in most cases, each sporting event they participate in, they dedicate about 4 hours of their day to be a part of the group. Everything sounds pretty serious about the dancers, but they do have a lot of fun and get a little crazy at times. Team Fundraising Officer, Abbie, says:

“The dance team shares many crazy moments, but some of my favorites are all the funny things that happen in the locker rooms at games. We all get each other and our senses of humor, so if people from the outside would hear about it they wouldn’t get it.”

There is a big difference between doing some dance activities in high school compared to doing the same in college. “Although it is somewhat similar to high school dance team, there are certain differences. For one, we are more involved in the games. Also the amount of time we spend together as a team practicing and attending games and events is much more involved and a larger time commitment,” Abbie says.

They need all that practice because each night the dance team performs, fans see a different routine. Some dance teams across the nation perform the same number over and over, but Creighton’s squad brings a different performance each game. Still, the dancers have their favorite routines. “The team’s best dance would have been from last season, Bridget and Catherine’s routine, Calabria,” Abbie says. “We got many compliments not only from fans but also from those who work for Creighton.”

Playing up the Crowd
As much as the dancers enjoy performing for crowds at Creighton sporting events and getting everyone involved in the action, they also want to help create the future of the Creighton Dance Team. Every year the team hosts the Lil’ Jays Dance Clinic, which brings anywhere between 75 and 150 kids the chance to learn some dances and routines from the dancers they idolize.

This year’s clinic is Saturday, February 13, from 8:00-10:30 a.m. The clinic is open to little dancers ages 3 through the 8th grade. For a $25 fee, the kids get:

- Instruction from current Creighton Dance Team members
- A Lil’ Jays Dancer T-Shirt
- A Valentine’s Day treat bag
- The opportunity to show off their new skills during a halftime dance at that afternoon’s Creighton women’s basketball game vs. Evansville (It is a “Pink Out” game, so wear your pink!)
- Complimentary tickets for their parents to watch them perform at halftime of the 11 a.m. game

The deadline to register for the Lil’ Jays Dance Clinic is February 5.

But the dance team doesn’t pick Lil’ Jays Dancers just once a year; the dance team and the Creighton Promotions team offer fans at men’s and women’s basketball games the chance to sign up to be selected as the Lil’ Jays Dancer of the Game. You can see how much fun these kids have by the size of their smiles on the big screens at the Qwest Center and Sokol Arena.

The Creighton Dance Team has continued its long tradition thanks to the talented young people that come to CU and give their effort and time to represent the school so well. The current Jays Dancers hope to see more talented, fabulous young women continue the team in the future.

Labels: , ,

Solid Gold: UNI Dance Team Brings Home National Title

Photo: MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Photo Editor

CEDAR FALLS - The next time you check out a University of Northern Iowa basketball game, take heart knowing you're watching champions perform.

Not necessarily the women's or men's basketball teams - although the season's not over yet.

Nope, it's the team waving pompoms, doing complicated dance routines and smiling the whole time.

UNI dance team members just came back from a weekend in sunny Orlando, Fla., with a big trophy and gold medals around their necks for winning first in the nation among collegiate dance teams in the pom division.

"Lots of tears" is how UNI junior Emily Hauser describes the squad's feeling after its name was announced as the champion at the Universal Dance Association College Nationals two weeks ago.

It was the first time in school history that the UNI dance team has claimed a national title.

The highest the team had ever gotten at nationals was fifth place, said squad adviser and recent UNI grad Jessica Fuller.

Videos of the team on UDA's Web site show the 14 student-athletes rapidly work their two-minute routine with precision.

They also entered the jazz division, where they placed eighth overall.

"People say, ‘How do you get first and eighth?' It's a completely different style," senior Amanda Miller said. "(Nationals are) continuously getting harder and harder. Our goal is to excel in our team as best we can."

Though Fuller handles administrative aspects of the squad, the women on the team choreograph and practice on their own.

Some months, Miller said, that means practicing 30 to 40 hours per week - all for routines that amount to no more than a couple of minutes during a football or basketball game or wrestling match.

They credit that work ethic for their win in Orlando.

"We told the girls, ‘This isn't going to be handed to us,'" senior Holli Rutherford said.

Qualifying for the UDA College Nationals at a camp last summer, the squad also elected to send in a tape. It was rewarded with an all-expenses paid trip.

Once there, the dance team ran away with the pom championship, besting the second place team by 60 points - "which is unheard of," Miller said.

"We really overcame our division," she said. "Hopefully, the division gets better and better."

The team was honored for its accomplishment during a break in play at Wednesday night's men's basketball game against Drake.

College Prep Clinic
The team will host a College Prep Clinic Feb. 20.
The open clinic is designed to get people familiar with what a college dance squad does and try some routines.
For more information, e-mail

Labels: , ,