by Rikkilynn Shields, Social Media Editor
Whether they’ve caught your attention practicing in Draddy, on the sidelines of the basketball games or through their creatively choreographed Instagram videos, the Manhattan College Jasper Dancers are a staple to any event on or off campus involving Manhattan College’s spirit squad.
On Thursday, Nov. 1, Manhattan Madness was hosted in Draddy Gymnasium to kick off the basketball season. The crowd of screaming Jaspers was not only able to cheer on their favorite basketball players and watch performances from Manhattan College’s spirit squads, but they were also able to witness the routine that the Jasper Dancers have been working hard for a month to perfect.
During the fall semester, the team normally practices three days a week, focusing on technique and conditioning in their preparation to perform at Manhattan Madness, as well as the basketball games throughout the season.
Coach Kaitlyn Marquette, who has been coaching the Jasper Dancers since February of 2014, puts her heart and soul into every minute she has practicing and performing with the team.
“Whether it’s ballet or fitness related, we always begin with a team warm up. We will then move on to learning new choreography or cleaning and perfecting choreography we already know. Sometimes we will spend two hours just perfecting 15 seconds. Practices are jam-packed and fast-paced,” Marquette said.
Marquette also expressed how hard the girls have been working this past month to perfect their Madness performance.
“We began choreography for Madness on Oct. 8 and continued to perfect the dance the following weeks leading up to the big performance. On top of choreography, the dancers must be prepared physically and mentally to execute the dance to the best of their abilities,” Marquette said.
Taylor Aloisio, a junior childhood/special education major, joined the dance team her freshman year at Manhattan after dancing since she was three years old.
“[The Madness] dance is supposed to be a dance that is fun, exciting, and gets the crowd pumped up for the upcoming basketball season,” Aloisio said. “Once we first learned the dance from beginning to end, we go back to the beginning and clean it and focus on the little details to make sure it looks as best it possibly can.”
Aloisio continued, “Something else we find very beneficial when practicing this dance, or any dance for that matter, is doing it in groups and having half of the girls sit and watch, while the other group of girls perform the dance. Through doing this, we are able to give each other feedback and corrections for what we could do better, while also saying what we did well.”
Sophomore childhood/special education major Madeline Donohue likewise joined the dance team her freshman year and has been dancing since she was three years old. Donohue expressed that this year’s Madness performance involved many new tactics and techniques that the team has worked hard to master by breaking down the dance section by section.
“Being able to start the different portions as if it’s the new dance gives us the opportunity to allocate our energy into different pockets of the dance,” Donohue said. “We also have done buddy evaluations. We are assigned to one or two people for the year to workout with, and observe and give corrections.
“Being able to focus on one person opposed to the whole group we can really perfect the dance and focus on such small details to just improve the dance in every way. We have had long practices multiple times a week since school has started to take this Madness to a whole new level.”
Following the performance, Aloisio feels as if the Manhattan Madness performance was exactly what they had hoped for.
“Manhattan Madness went extremely well for us and we are so proud of the performance we gave,” Aloisio said. “The crowd went crazy and everyone loved the dance. We all had so much fun and it is easily one of our favorite performances we do every year. My favorite parts of the night were performing in front of the student body and dancing with Pauly Paulicap and the rest of my team when he was introduced. Nobody was expecting it and everyone was so excited to see us dancing with him. It was definitely a memorable moment for all of us.”
Marquette expressed similar feelings toward the performance.
“I think it went awesome! Draddy was filled with so much energy and the girls thrived off of that. I am so happy with how they performed. They set the bar really high for themselves and then surpassed it. What a great way to start our season,” Marquette said.
This year, the dance team has two new members and eight returnees; one of those dancers being a senior.
For Aloisio, trying out for the dance team was something she felt called to do.
“I decided to try out for the dance team because I have been dancing basically my whole life and it is something I have such a love and passion for,” Aloisio said. “When I was graduating high school, I knew I would no longer be able to dance at my studio at home and I didn’t want that to be the reason I had to stop dancing. When I found out Manhattan College had a dance team, I knew I wanted to be a member of the team to continue my passion at the collegiate level.”
Since freshman year, Aloisio has grown not only as an individual dancer, but also as a member of the dance team. In April of her sophomore year, the team took 5th in Nationals in the Division I Hip-Hop category, the highest placement in the team’s history.
“My experience being on the dance team has been like nothing else I’ve ever done before,” Aloisio said. “I am beyond grateful that I am able to be part of this amazing team and I get to do what I love every day with people who are more than just teammates, but family. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be on this team but all of the blood, sweat and tears that goes into it– literally– pays off in the end when we are performing on that stage down at Nationals knowing we did everything we could to get there and we are proud of all of the hard work we put into these dances.”
Junior communication major Natalia Revere joined the dance team this past September after dancing her entire life up until high school.
“I went to the open class the team held back in September and it felt so great to let go of everything and just dance,” Revere said. “The coach, Kait, made an announcement at the end of the class encouraging anyone interested in potentially trying out to come see her and talk. I was always too intimidated to try out for the team but the class dynamic was so great I decided to push myself and knew I would regret it if I walked out of the mini gym without taking this chance.”
Revere performed at her first Manhattan Madness, and along with Coach Marquette and Aloisio also felt as if the performance went well.
“It’s our first time presenting ourselves as a team to the school so our energy had to be crazy. I’m pretty sure we have rewatched the video of our performance hundreds of times already. The crowd really pumped us up and made us want to run out there and give it our all. Huge thanks to the 6th borough,” said Revere.
Donohue’s experience with the team, whether it be performing at Madness or practicing for hours on end, has given her nothing but good things to say about the team overall.
“I have nothing but positive things to say about the dance team,” said Donohue. “Being on the team, you develop bonds and friendships that I truthfully have never experienced before. We are together so often, that being so close with one another really makes it all easier. It’s easier to get through long practices, through workouts, and through Nationals season because we can all depend on each other to pick each other up. It makes it all the more enjoyable to do what you love with the people you love. Our coach and captains create a comfortable environment, and it shows in our dancing.”
Beginning in the spring semester, the team will begin practicing five-to-six days a week for longer periods of time. During the spring semester, the team begins to prepare for Nationals in Daytona Beach, Fla., where they focus on two specific routines for months on end, working to perfect the routine to move onto the finals.
For Coach Marquette, she hopes for the team to make more accomplishments than they have had in past years.
“On both ends I want us to push ourselves beyond our mental and physical limits. We want to go above and beyond all accomplishments we have made in the past. These girls are fueled with fire and are striving to make this the best season yet,” Marquette said.
Aloisio is hoping and is confident that the hard work and dedication that her and the entire team puts into their practices and performances this year pay off in the end.
“My hopes/goals for the team for the rest of the year is that we work as hard as we possibly can so that we can go down to Nationals feeling confident and proud of how far we have come,” Aloisio said. “We want to have no regrets walking off of that stage and through a lot of hard work I know we are more than capable of this. Last year, Nationals didn’t go the way we had hoped and we are all ready to redeem ourselves and prove that the Jasper Dancers are a force to be reckoned with.”
For Revere, one of the newest members, she hopes that the family dynamic of the team adds to their successes.
“As a team I hope we continue to vibe off of each others’ positive energy during practice and during performances,” said Revere. “It truly is a family and I think that adds to our success as a team. As far as goals, I think we all can agree that we would love to kill it at Nationals this April. We start training for that this weekend.”
Overall, Aloisio believes that the passion each member of the dance team has, along with the strong bond the members have cultivated, is exactly what will only enhance the team’s overall dynamic and lead to their success.
“My favorite part of being on the dance team is doing what I love every day with a group of girls who have the same love and passion for dance that I do,” Aloisio said. “We are all able to come together and look toward one common goal for not just ourselves, but each other and that is something I think is really special.”