by Cori Hilsgen
The College of St. Benedict Dance Team placed first in the Open Class Pom Division at the 2014 Universal Dance Association’s College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championships recently held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla.
Orange Coast College of Costa Mesa, Calif. placed second; Minnesota State University, Mankato placed third; and St. Cloud State University placed fourth in the competition.
The teams are coached by Alexandrea “Ali” Milan and Allison “Allie” Seifert. Milan was on the CSBDT from fall 2008 through spring 2012. Seifert was a member from fall 2005 through spring 2009.
Milan said the final six teams were separated by less than a point.
The CSBDT has only competed in the pom division for two years and won both years. They have also competed in the jazz division for 10 years and have placed in the top 10 each of those years. They placed fifth in the Open Class Jazz Division this year.
Seifert said she is very proud of the dance team.
“They have worked so hard in practice to perfect their skills and routine, but they also put in many hours outside of practice working on building both their physical and mental strength,” Seifert said. “They did this with physical workouts and mental skills training. This helped to get their minds and bodies in the right place prior to nationals – it allowed us to walk in confident(ly) and prepared to compete at such a high level.”
“The CSB dance team is very unique in how it’s structured,” Milan said. “It has gone through a lot of change since it has started, but the members and alum are very passionate about the program and do what they can to help it grow and progress.”
There are three parts or seasons to the team: fall/football season, competition season and spring season.
Fall/football season starts in August when 70 dance-team members arrive on campus a week before school starts for a week of “three-a-days.” These days include an intensive workout program and learning the football routines for the season. The team performs at all of the St. John’s University home football games and other area events. The routines are mainly pom/dance team dances.
Competition season also begins in August. The top 18 members attend a four-day camp at the Wisconsin Dells with other colleges from the Midwest to learn routines and choreography for the season. Team members also attend St. Cloud area dance shows in the late fall. The CSBDT hosts an annual dance show in December. Teams and studios from across the metro area attend the event to showcase their routines for the season. The competition team then performs at the University of Minnesota’s “Best of the Best” dance show in the Twin Cities in January and competes at the “Spirit of America” dance competition hosted at the Mall of America in Bloomington. The season ends with nationals in Orlando, where they perform in the open pom and jazz divisions.
Spring season begins in January. The 50-girl team learns a hip-hop dance they perform in many CSB/SJU basketball games. They perform at a Minnesota Swarm lacrosse game in February. The team also hosts a children’s dance clinic in March where children can learn routines and skills from the CSB dancers. High school girls who are interested in trying out for the team can attend the clinic to get tips for tryouts and learn what a season consists of on the team.
“Representatives from this team also take part in volunteer opportunities such as helping with the Kaleidoscope Girl Scouts conference in April,” Milan said.
Tryouts for the dance team are hosted the April before the season. Milan said this year’s tryouts will be held April 11 and 12. Dancers can choose which season they would like to take part in but must participate in the fall team in order to take part in the competition team.
To be on the CSBDT, members of the team must be a registered student attending CSB, must have a current physical on file and must maintain at least a 2.0 cumulative grade-point average.
Team practices are usually held from 7-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and consist of learning and drilling choreography, reviewing skills and training. Weekly individual and team goals are also discussed at the start of each week.
“An interesting fact about the team is that the fall 2008 team had 30 dancers on the fall team with no coaches,” Milan said. “To date, there are 70 girls on the fall team (and) there is now a spring team with 50 girls and there are two coaches.”