by Victoria Kazz, Class of 2010
High school seniors look for a variety of things when deciding where they want to get their higher education. Academic programs, cost and location of the campus are usually among their top priorities.
However, Michelle Hempel was looking for one more thing: a dance team, which she found at SUNY Fredonia.
“Before I made my final decision to go to Fredonia, I looked into their clubs to make sure they had a dance team. Then I went to Activities Night to find out more,” Hempel said.
“I was welcomed to the table by a few of the team members, and although I was nervous, I was so excited, because the team was everything I was looking for.”
The Dance Team is a purely student-run group that intertwines the dedication and hard work of dancing with the enjoyment and fun of performing. The team is most notably associated with Blue Devil men’s basketball, for whose fans it performs throughout the season. The team also appears at the Homecoming Pep Rally and other special events.
Alumna Jenna Regan, ’08, who was on the team for four years and still keeps in frequent contact with many of her former teammates, describes the team perfectly: “They work hard. They play hard. But mostly, they have fun.”
The hard work comes first. At the beginning of each academic year, following Activities Night, three days of tryouts are held for new and returning members. The executive board selects between 15 and 20 women for the team.
“When we hold tryouts, we look for a lot more than just dance skill and technique in potential team members,” says Hempel, now a senior and the team’s president. “We look for people with lots of energy, a great attitude, and who just love to have fun and entertain the crowd.”
After the new team has been selected, the next two months consist of practices in which the team develops its choreography and chooses its music. Unlike a sports team, there is no coach to create the routines; the students must work together to come up with dances that they will enjoy and are capable of performing throughout the year.
The team spends practices developing the choreography – sometimes in small groups or even as individuals. They come up with certain moves on their own and teach them to the rest of the members. Then the team will perfect each move, coordinate it with music, and anxiously await the time when they will get to perform it to an audience for the first time.
It is after those months of rehearsals that the team, which has worked hard, can finally play hard. During halftime at the men’s basketball games, the team performs the dances they have worked so hard to perfect. Members of the team say that performing at games is their favorite part of the year, and to them the first performance will be a celebration of their efforts. Months of practices and teamwork will be shown off in a matter of minutes in front of students, employees and community members.
“It is great to see our vision of the team actually come to life,” Hempel adds.
The pride and accomplishment of the routine can be seen in the smile on every team member’s face as she dances. The team exemplifies so many parts of SUNY Fredonia: student collaboration, challenges and success.
The dance team has been in existence for over 10 years and shows no signs of slowing down. Its presence and recognition make it a respected and vivacious student group, enabling it to stand out and continue showcasing the talents of new generations of Fredonians. It remains as popular as ever among fans and participants.