Five years ago, a few students who had a passion for dance decided to form a team here at Montclair State University, but little did they know what that team would soon become. Fast forward four years, and that team won their first national competition. In April of 2018, they placed first in the National Dance Alliance and the National Collegiate Dance and Cheer Competition for Division III sports at Daytona Beach, Florida. They beat seven other teams from around the country. Of the 14 team members, some were in shock, some were speechless, but almost all of them cried tears of joy as they were announced as the winners. This was the first time this team has won a competition at this level since it was established in 2013.
Now that it is a new school year and a new season they have a lot to live up to. Four seniors graduated last year, but a few new freshman and even a new senior joined the team this year. This season, the pressure is on to perform even better than last year. They have already begun practicing their routine for the competition, even though it isn’t until April. After coming off such an amazing win, it is important for them to be able to compete at that level again. Not only do they have to practice for that, but they also have to practice routines for home football games, basketball games and many other events, like for greek life and fundraisers. These students have a lot on their plates with balancing that, their school work and their personal lives.
Senior, Cassandra Borrell, who is now a captain and a member of the E-Board, has been on the team since her freshman year and she has always put a lot towards the team. She is one of just four seniors on the team this year. In regards to coming off such a successful season, she said “We had an incredible team last year with amazing new coaches. We all wanted to win but because we were so new to this I don’t think anyone truly believed it would’ve happened until it did. Now, I think we are definitely capable of bringing home another trophy and hopefully for first place again. Were putting even more work into this year which has been hard but I think it will definitely show and pay off in the end.” They have been practicing and adding new and challenging moves, like acrobatic tricks into it, while also trying to incorporate more styles of dance into the routine, like hip-hop.
Practices, which typically run from 8:30pm to 11pm three days a week, are pretty much the same as they have been in the past, but this year they have started training earlier for the competition to ensure that they are as prepared as possible for when April rolls around. They’ve started putting more time aside that is specifically for their NDA routine, which is something they haven’t done in the past but now feel necessary to do. The NDA, or National Dance Association, holds a competition every year in the spring where college teams from across the county get to compete in Daytona Beach for the national title. Junior Gabrielle Pandolfo said “I think since we did win last year we feel the need to perform at that same level or even better so we’ve been putting a lot more work into the national routine than we did last year and I hope it shows this year.”
Even though it is only November, they have already choreographed and learned the routine for the competition. They have never finished making a routine this early on in the year for a competition but senior Helen McCaffery says, “we will continue working on it and changing it probably up until close to the date of the competition. We are constantly trying to change and improve each routine we have to make it even better than before, so at this point we don’t for sure what what it will end up looking like, but so far I like it.”
Now that they have experienced their first win, they know what to expect and what the judges are looking for. They know what a winning team looks like and consists of. They can be even more prepared going into it this year since they know what to expect from other teams too. They were able to get familiar with the style of their competitors and even incorporate some of that into their own routines.
Once the warm weather rolls around again it’s going to be competition time soon. For the seniors on the team, winning it again would be the perfect way to leave this team. Their championship banner is now hanging front and center in the student recreation center and their four-foot trophy proudly sits in the display case. Hopefully, they can add another one right next to it this spring.