5 Teams To Watch At UDA College National Dance Championships 2016

 

UDA college nationals 2016

UDA College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championships are this weekend, and we all know what that means – my blog is about to go hog freakin’ wild.

Dance team nationals are honestly some of my favorite things ever. They’re these super boiled down displays of teamwork, an intensified showcase of athleticism and artistry all into one two and a half minute routine. I’ve always said that something that makes dance team so unique as a sport is that the stakes are so high – it’s not like we get multiple games to rack up a good record; we can’t just “play better next week.” We have to own it for those two minutes we’re out there, and if we don’t, all of the months of hard work are gone.

It’s so thrilling, which is why I keep up with it so closely, even when it’s a competition I don’t go to, and even when I’m already a year out of college.

In anticipation of the big weekend, here are my top picks to keep your eye out for at UDA 2015 college nationals:

  1. University of Minnesota and University of Tennessee Division IA Jazz

Yes, I’m going to put these two together because while I’m super pumped to see what these teams do individually every year, what I’m really looking forward to this year is seeing the absolute showdown that we all know is coming. In 2015 Tennessee blew up the universe by beating University of Minnesota in 1A jazz using the same song as Minnesota. Gauntlet thrown.

I’m going to have to preface my prediction with this: University of Tennessee has always been my favorite collegiate dance team at UDA, and their 2009 Iris routine is my all-time favorite. That said, I don’t think they’re going to win out this year. Minnesota has to be coming back with their talons blazing, ready to do anything to regain their dynasty. I know they’ve had good old Carl Mundt in practice from time to time, and their camp routine was flawless. Tennessee’s camp routine was more their usual thang, which means I was kind of underwhelmed considering their mind-boggling routine from last year.

Needless to say, I’m going to be on the edge of my fucking seat waiting to see how this one plays out.

  1. University of Cincinnati Division IA Hip-Hop

SLAAAAAY KWEEN, SLAY. Last year the University of Cincinnati took it all with their hip-hop routine, and rightfully so. It was honest to God the most innovative hip-hop routine I have ever seen (and I’ve seen Brigham Young University at NDA nationals live in the flesh four times, so that’s really saying something). I’m honestly just curious to see if Cinci can follow that up. I know they’re going to be amazing, but they made enormous shoes for themselves to fill, and I’m wondering if that’ll even be possible.

  1. University of Central Oklahoma Open Jazz, Open Hip-Hop

UCO!!! These bad bitches were always in my team’s division at NDA, and I was super shocked last year to see that they changed competitions. Truth be told, they usually got totally screwed every year at NDA, so I was really excited to see that they took the plunge in UDA instead.

Last year they got fifth in Open Jazz and 10th in hip-hop which is unbelievable for newbies at UDA if you ask me. I always loved competing against these girls, and really respected what they brought to the table. They’re fierce competitors, and I’m really pulling for them to improve both finishes from last year.

  1. St. Joseph’s University Division I Pom

What would this article be without a little bit of love for the pom girls? It’s so awkward because I feel like as a jazz dancer, I never really hear about pom, but oh my God is it hard to do. I have such respect for these ladies, and I have to tip my cap to them in this article.

St. Joseph’s was last year’s winner, and that’s especially notable because in 2014 they came in fifth. That’s an crazy jump and I have so much respect for that. I’m super curious to see if it was a fluke or if they’re going to create some sort of DI pom dynasty that we all follow as closely as Minnesota’s.

  1. Arizona State University Division IA Jazz

…because they got robbed.

Not to say the people who beat them weren’t good, but these girls got sixth place AND DANCED TO A GODDAMN A CAPELLA VERSION OF MY HEART WILL GO ON. Not only is that song generally epic, but dance teaming to a capella music is damn near impossible and I will forever be impressed by this. I could literally feel the passion of Celine dripping out of their pores.

Plus, they had a straight up fall on a girl’s butt during that dance and nobody talked about it (although maybe that’s because none of us could shut up about Tennessee and Minnesota). If that’s not impressive then I really don’t know what is.

I’m seriously so excited to see if these girls can go back to their circa 2012 prowess and not get absolutely screwed this year.

For dance. For being a role model. For all sorts of things. (The Final Curtain Call, Revisited)

It’s kind of a big deal in dance today– it’s the first tryouts for my college dance team that I won’t be participating in, and it’s the last recital my dance studios seniors are in. Any other year, it’d be a tough choice for me to decide which to go to, but this year it was a little too easy, because I can’t really put into words how proud of North Andover School of Dance’s class of 2015 I am, even if I’m going to try.

Image via NASD Facebook
Image via NASD Facebook

I feel like every dancer comes to the moment when they’re like 14 or 15 where they realize that all the “big girls” that they used to idolize aren’t at the studio anymore, and that somehow they’ve become the “big girls.” For me, it was during a giant production rehearsal, and everyone in the room was just messing around. I threw a bunch of pirouettes, and the ridiculously talented 10-year-old in the room looked at me, and then threw just as many. My teacher caught it, smiled, tilted her head, and cooed, “aw, big sis and little sis nailing their turns.”

Big sis and little sis.

The next year the same girl pulled my name for Secret Santa, and on the evening of our Holiday Show gift exchange, I was pulling out big sis little sis necklaces. I knew, in the best way possible, that I was being watched.

Over the years I continued to hear about it: you’re being watched, Sara, work harder, someone is going to match the work you put in, Sara, don’t post that, you don’t want people to think that’s okay.

Maybe I’m just really flattering myself, and maybe all these kids weren’t really looking up to me the way I was imagining (hoping), but it doesn’t really matter. Because for me, it’s not really about what I could’ve given to them as a supposed “big girl”; it’s about what they gave to me.

I kept on working hard throughout high school because these little munchkins were always a pirouette, a leap, a tap trick behind me. I genuinely believe that I wouldn’t be the dancer that I am today if I didn’t have the need to make sure the little kids never got better than me (although that definitely happened…) I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am, either; when they eventually did get better than me, I learned how to support someone, how to stand behind them during their journey. I learned how to dance with integrity and confidence and love because I wanted them all to have that, too.

nasd recital
Image via NASD Facebook

So, NASD Class of 2015, I want you all to remember this today: Stay absolutely still in your head and in your heart. From someone who has done that final bow on the Collins Center stage, as someone who walked off from her final performance a short month and a half ago, I’m telling you to be still. Feel the stage lights on your skin, look at every fallen sequin on the marley floor, hold onto those moments in the wings for as long as the music lets you. Look everyone around you in the eye, and thank them for making you into the dancer you are; thank dance for making you the person you are.

And don’t think today that you’re never going to have this (the dancing, the friends, the studio, and the love that’s inside it) again. You will. I’m telling you from experience that you will. After months away, after millions of moments of happiness at college, you’re going to walk into that studio, it all is never going to have gone away.