by MICHEVI DUFFLART, Web Editor
Things are back in full swing at Manhattan College and the Jasper Dancers are suiting up for another new season.
Starting in September, the Jasper Dancers begin practicing for another eventful year which runs from autumn to late spring. In the autumn and winter months, the dancers train and practice routines for basketball season, but as the new year rolls in, the group focuses more on preparing for Nationals.
However, before the season officially begins in September, these dancers can usually be found in Boston at the National Dance Alliance’s Camp (NDA Camp). Here the dancers spend three days learning new choreography, refining some of their skills and techniques and having the opportunity to learn from the other 10-12 schools that attend the camp. The camp is also the place where the team receives a bid to Nationals and gains a better understanding of what judges are expecting when it comes to Nationals routines.
“[NDA Camp] was really fun,” said freshman dancer and business management and marketing major, Imi Donovan, who attended the NDA Camp with the team this past month. “It was really really intense because we did three days [at Manhattan College] preparing for the camp… [then at the camp] we had practice all into the night…”
So while the camp is an enjoyable experience, it also sets the stage, physically and mentally for some of the challenges the dancers will encounter throughout the season.
After tryouts conclude in early September, the dancers practice three days a week. In these three days, two of the days are dedicated to conditioning and technique and the last day is dedicated to learning and practicing routines. The three styles of dance performed by the Jasper Dancers are jazz, hip hop and pom.
Pom, which includes the use of pom poms, often causes people to confuse the dancers for cheerleaders, but the movements used in pom are more similar to jazz. Of the three styles though, one is by far a crowd favorite.
“[People] usually enjoy hip hop the most,” said junior and civil engineering major Taylor Malangone. “For games we like to do what the crowd is going to enjoy, we like to use music the crowd will like and moves that the crowd will like.”
While jazz, pom and hip hop are common styles to the Jasper Dancers, one has to wonder if there is the possibility of being more. Head coach Kaitlyn Marquette says, “Probably no new styles on the horizon, but you never know.”
During basketball season, the dancers typically learn about six-to-eight routines and then two additional routines specific to Nationals. According to Marquette, learning and cleaning up a routine can take anywhere between two practices to four months, depending on the length and complexity.
Marquette usually choreographs all the routines, finding the inspiration in the music and then building a dance around that. However, this coach is open to other choreography as well.
“For the first time last season we had a guest choreographer come in to do one of the basketball games, and it’s something I’d like to do more of in the future, because it was really fun for the girls to shake things up. And, of course, I want to expose them to as much variety as I can,” said Marquette.
The routines, although choreographed by Marquette or a guest choreographer, are not set in stone.
“If we vocalize to our coach that we don’t think something looks good, or we feel weird doing it, or ‘I don’t think I’m going to hit something, can you please change it,’ [our coach is] very understanding with that and we’ll try to come up with something together” said Malangone.
The first major event the Jasper Dancers perform at is Manhattan Madness, the annual pep rally that kicks of the beginning of basketball season. From there the dancers perform at all the basketball games, the MAAC championships and finally Nationals.
At Nationals, all teams are allowed to compete in two styles of dance from the choices of jazz, hip hop, pom and team performance. In previous years, MC has done hip hop and team performance, which is a combination of hip hop, jazz and pom.
While Marquette plans to stick with the two styles, she has different things in mind for the choreography.
“In the past I’ve always choreographed team performance, but this year I’m going to bring in another choreographer to partner with me with fresh eyes and hopefully give us a surprise edge for competition” said Marquette.
Aside from dancing though, these Jaspers also do fundraisers to help run their program and get them to Nationals. In the past, the dancers have also taken part in the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run and have also been advocates of Breast Cancer Awareness.
For many, the end of last season is not what they expected, but they’re excited and motivated to work hard and see what the new year has to offer.
“I think we’re all ready to stay focused and use our strengths to our advantage to really prove ourselves and put Manhattan College on the map” said Walker.