Students dance to beat of own drum

It is often difficult for students to accomplish small group projects assigned in classes or get along with three other roommates in Freeman. However, the Gannon University Dance Team is the prime example of a student-run organization that not only accomplishes so much, but has a lot of fun doing so.

The dance team’s 2008-09 season started out with an adult coach in charge of the team.  Because of other commitments, that coach soon stepped down and the members were left with a choice: try to find a replacement, or put in the extra effort to run things on their own.

The dance team chose the latter, and has since been a completely student-run organization with a staff adviser, Catherine Gillespie. Most teams have at least one coach, or in most cases multiple coaches. For the dance team, it is up to the four upperclassman captains to manage all aspects of the team, from fundraising and costumes, to practices and choreography.

Each year since could have been a detrimental season. But according to Cassie Byers, senior co-captain of the team, said the members of the dance team have worked year round to make the organization exponentially better in every possible way.

While that first season of transitioning to a coachless team was not always smooth, every year since then the members have done their part to bring more organization and respect to the team. According to Kristen Schall, a junior co-captain, there is now a good system in place, with two senior and two junior captains each year. The junior captains then replace the senior ones, so there is a constant cycle of leaders.

“It’s definitely a challenge to try managing so many personalities, but in the end the dances always come together, and that’s what is most important,” Schall said.

But, there is another aspect to this organization compared with other student run clubs on campus that cannot be ignored. While the captains bring a strong sense of leadership and organization, they don’t just have weekly meetings that the members sit through once a week with a simple PowerPoint for them to follow along.

Instead, according to Gillespie, there is a creative depth that the captains bring to the table in order to choreograph new routines. In addition to the dance steps involved, formations, song choice and a meshing of various talents all must be taken into account.

With 23 members this season, including three seniors, four juniors, six sophomores and 10 freshmen, there are 23 different levels of talent, background in dance and training experience all brought together to form one, unified team. This is definitely not an easy task for not only the captains, but every member of the team.

After tryouts on Oct. 2, all the dancers got right to work to learn, practice and perfect a dance for the school’s pep-rally, a mere month away. Add on top of that practices with Zeta Beta Tau for the homecoming parade, which falls just two days after the pep-rally. Finally, about half of the team are also members of the Hip Hop Dance Team, which will perform at both the pep-rally and the football game homecoming weekend.

And students think it’s hard juggling five different class loads.

“Some practices are more difficult than others, but when we get to perform, and the dances all come together, it’s definitely worth the stress,” Byers said.

Finding the free time for 23 different girls is difficult enough, but often finding the energy for the countless hours of practice is the real challenge.

Regardless, everyone always manages to learn the dances, every formation is studied, and every kick line is mastered – all thanks to a group of hard-working and talented girls on Gannon’s campus.

While at practices, tensions may run high over frustrations with a step not mastered, an alteration in formation, or a discrepancy on where the arms should be, but at the end of the day the dance team is just that: a team, which works hard several days a week to bring you quality entertainment at the basketball games.

“We’ve been working hard all four years I’ve been on the team to make the club better,” Byers said.  “We’re not just improving things now, but we’re trying to make things better for the future of the team.”

This club is not about resume-boosting or sitting through a monthly meeting, but instead it is about giving girls with the interest and talent a way to continue expressing their love of dance and a creative outlet as they work their way through college.


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