Author: Wesley Goodman-Levy
Perhaps it was the pressure of performing on a national stage, perhaps it was the drive to improve upon last years second-to-last place finish, or perhaps it was not performing in front of drunken college students at a football game. Whatever the reason, the 12 members and coach of the Occidental Dance team surprised everyone with an astounding 13th place finish out of a national pool of 32 teams in Orlando, Florida on Jan 16.
The team consisted of only five returning dancers along with seven new teammates. Yet instead of instability with such a large number of new members, the new team came together through their passion for dance. “We have very little drama because every member on the team is there to work. All of the dancers on the team have their own strengths and we have learned to look up to one another for these assets,” returning player Alyssa Cuervo (sophomore) said. Everyone is very supportive and encouraging of one another.”
Coach Allison Truscheit had nothing but words of pride for the work her team had put in both to become a team and prepare for nationals. “Competitive dance is grueling, and requires a huge time commitment,” Truscheit said. “The team is not comprised of women that simply dance in their free time. These women are athletes, and they train like athletes. They LOVE to work hard. They never back down from a challenge, and I am constantly amazed at how they support each other during practice. I have never seen a team encourage each other so much. They are never satisfied, they always want to be better.”
This strong attitude enabled the team to overcome adversity throughout the season. After having barely raised the needed $15,000 for the trip to Orlando, the team had to deal with injuries both throughout the season and even in preparing for nationals. “We had to change our routine several times before the competition, which is extremely difficult due to how essential formations are in competitive dance,” Truscheit said.
Yet despite injuries and long and tiring week of preparation, the team arrived in Orlando ready for competition. The team had been practicing a routine for the past six months and was confident in the routine and their ability to execute it. Yet the pressure of performing in front of 5,000 people and a panel of judges scrutinizing every single movement is extreme. “The adrenaline was rushing, I couldn’t really think. I was just trying to breath,” dance team member Chelsea Duncan (freshman) said.
Yet, whatever the mental state of the members of the team, the performance they put on brought validity, honor and prestige to the miniscule and underestimated program at Occidental by earning 13th place.
“This team has put Occidental on the dance map,” Truscheit said. “They have not only improved themselves as individual dancers and as a team, but they have made Occidental a reputable name in the dance world. That has never happened before.”
“13th place is a huge honor for the Occidental Dance Team,” Cuervo said. “It means that we have secured our spot as one of the best Open Division (including D3, community colleges, and colleges without a football team) Dance Teams in the United States. Also, with this placement we were given a finalist plaque and said to be superior. Coming from last year, we were able to improve twelve spots. That’s a vast improvement.”
Such an accomplishment truly puts Occidental on the map of dance teams to watch out for come next year in which the team hopes to break into the top ten spots at the national competition. Yet the joys of winning are nothing compared to joys of simply being passionate about and engaging in dance.
“What is very unique about our team is that we don’t really get caught up in the competition of dance,” Cuervo said. “We try to stay focused on ourselves. We all dance because we love it, not because we want to win at a competition. Nationals was more of a chance for us to show a routine we worked so hard on and appreciate the work of other colleges around the US. Of course we would love receiving 1st place at nationals but it is more the love of dance that keeps us going.”
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