by SHANNON GLEBA & ALEXA SCHMIDT, Staff Writer & Features Editor
The Jasper Dancers hosted their annual send-off event in Draddy Gymnasium on March 31 in advance of their Nationals competition in Daytona, Fla.
The event began with a speech from the team’s coach, Kaitlyn Marquette, who expressed the importance of the send-off in preparing the dancers for such intense competition, especially because their jazz routine is new territory.
“This a big dress rehearsal for [the dancers], so be there for them, be supportive, it is their second time performing this jazz routine. This is their first time doing a jazz dance at Nationals, it is the first time in Jasper Dance history that we have ever done a jazz dance, so I am really proud of them for adapting to a new style and to perform it.
“I choreographed it myself and I am really proud of how it came together.”
After, the dancers took the floor and performed their jazz routine, which evoked emotion in many audience members, Marquette went on to explain more about the dance program at MC.
Marquette said, “We have auditions in September, and we practice 3-4 days a week during the fall semester and 4-7 days during the spring semester. That may sound like a lot, and it is, but there is a lot that goes into preparing the body and the mind for such an important competition. And doing two dances, it is a lot for the girls to take in, so 7 days a week sometimes.”
In addition to attending their own practices and competitions, the Jasper Dancers are also an integral part of the Sixth Borough, and perform during basketball games.
“They also perform at every women’s basketball game and every men’s basketball game. Yeah, they have a full schedule, they also stay on top of their academics,” said Marquette.
After a short break for a costume change, the dancers once again took the floor to perform their hip-hop routine for the crowd.
For the team, this dance is a way to express themselves and their determination to make it to finals. Two years ago, the team placed fifth in the nation in their category. However last year, they pushed hard, but did not make it to the finals.
“This routine is our comeback, this routine is us talking to the judges, us talking to each other and ourselves, and we’re not going to give up. Regardless of if we make finals, or if we don’t, we are going to show it on the floor. We feel like we deserved it last year, and we’re going to take it back this year, with a lot of fight,” Marquette said.
In order to give themselves the best chance at a comeback, the team made some changes to their approach to practicing and performing.
Junior dancer Taylor Aloisio said, “The style of dance is very different. We did hip-hop last year, but jazz we have never done before. Hip-hop, the style is very different, so we wanted to tell a story this year, rather than put as many tricks as you can into two minutes, that wasn’t our goal this year.”
Team co-captain, junior Taylor Malangone said, “I feel like going off the year we had last year, obviously things did not work out in our favor, so people came back with a different fight, a different motivation, so I think that is going to really help us, push us that extra step further than we did last year because we have more of something on our backs and we want to come back and fight harder.”
“Also, I think we practiced a little more this year, our hours definitely increased a little bit. And we found outside people to come in and help us, we did video critiques, we reached out to different options to get more help with our dances,” she said.
Coach Marquette emphasizes that the dance team is in the Division 1 category, which makes it tougher to compete against larger schools, who receive more funding.
Aloisio is the fundraising coordinator for the team and gets a firsthand look at the struggles of financing such a demanding competition.
“We are under student engagement, so we are not under athletics, so they give us a certain budget and then we can do with it what we want and we have to fundraise the rest… I deal with the money all of the time and it’s really hard to come up with the money. But, everyone in the school is so supportive of us, and they are really willing to help us which is nice,” she said.
Malangone, added that the competition is more expensive than people realize.
“You have costumes, you have travel, you have hotels, you have the competition fees itself. And everyone on the team does their part, we deal with family, friends, businesses,” she said.
When asked how the team dynamic has been, Malangone said, “The best- we would like to say we are the best club here, because the bond we have is really not compared to any other clubs… No matter what, we are always doing something together, whether it’s dance-related, not dance-related, I could not imagine not having these girls in my college years.”
Editor’s Note: For the team’s Nationals win coverage, check back in next week’s issue. Congratulations to the Jasper Dancers, including our editor-in-chief Megan Dreher!