The Saginaw Valley State University club dance team traveled to Florida earlier this month for its first-ever national competition – 22 years after the team’s inception.
An inspired team performed with precision and passion, resulting in two fifth-place finishes at the National Dance Alliance's Collegiate Dance Championship in Daytona Beach, laying a strong foundation on which to build toward future success.
As a club, the team does not receive financial support from the university's Athletic Department and instead relies on sponsorships and fundraisers. Without a paid coach, the team, which was founded in 1995, can experience inconsistency from year to year.
Davison native Kirsten Moore joined the team as a freshman in 2013; it had 10 members, and that number fluctuated as team presidents quit and the team had no plans to participate in national camps or in the national competition, she said. But when Moore joined the team's executive board during her junior year, she and her fellow team members began planning their route to nationals.
"We pretty much made it happen," said Moore, a health science major who now is the team president.
The process began with participating in a camp in August at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois. The team won first place in both the "game day" and team routines, qualifying for the national competition in the process. The team also won the "Silver Bid," which helped offset some of the costs of traveling to nationals, and the "Spirit Stick" for showing school spirit and displaying a positive attitude.
The team paid a choreographer to create the jazz routine that it performed in August and would perform again at nationals and a hip-hop routine for nationals that team members learned in November.
"It was pretty much all up to us to clean them and prepare them for nationals," Moore said of the routines.
In the months leading up to nationals, the team performed routines during home football and basketball games, as it does each year, while also practicing the routines it would perform at nationals.
"Keeping (the game routines) separate was a big transition," Moore said. "The end of basketball season is when we really flipped the switch into nationals mode. We practiced four times a week in March."
The team drove down to Daytona Beach on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 4 and 5, and the competition began the next day. The women knew who they would be competing against, including SVSU rival Grand Valley State University.
"You have to be positive and make the routines compatible with your team and see what happens from there," Moore said.
The team was among 13 that competed in the jazz routine and five that competed in the hip-hop routine. The women knew their jazz performance was stronger, and the judges agreed, sending SVSU and six other teams to the jazz finals.
"Being able to make it to finals, we didn't really care what we placed," Moore said. "We were happy to make it to finals and perform again."
The team now has 18 members, and though Moore and a couple other seniors are leaving the team, it is in a much better place now than it was four years ago, Moore said. That includes having the financial stability to pay for a coach next year.
"We feel like we're leaving the team on a good note," she said. "With me, I currently have three jobs and am going to school full time, with 17 credits. Being able to just juggle it all and be successful with it was very rewarding."
The team has its spring tryouts scheduled for noon Sunday, April 23, in Dance Studio 249 inside the Ryder Center. There is a $15 audition fee.