Japer Talk: Jasper Dancer Rookies Take on Their First Season

by, Kelly Kennedy, Assistant Production Editor

The Quadrangle: What is your year and major, and where are you from?

Skylar Rossi: “I’m a sophomore political science and communications major, and I’m from Washingtonville, New York.”

Kat Connelly: “I’m a freshman, management and marketing major, I’m from Monmouth Country, New Jersey.”

Katie Rachman: “I am a first-year Elementary/Special Education major from Los Angeles, California.”

TQ: How long have you been dancing?

SR: “I have been dancing for 16 years.”

KC: “I have been dancing since 6th grade so about 8 years.”

KR: “I have been dancing about 14-15 years.”

TQ: What has inspired your love for dancing?

SR: “I love the feeling of performing, getting to work with others who inspire me, and that there’s no limit to how much you can grow.”

KC: “My love for dance was inspired by the way dance makes me feel. It’s such an amazing feeling when you just let go and let your body express what your words can’t.”

KR: “I’ve always loved being able to share my passion with others. To be able to touch an audience with emotion, whether it be a happy emotion or something deeper.”

TQ: As a rookie, what have you learned so far from your first year as a jasper dancer?

SR: “As a rookie, I’ve learned so much about time management and working as a team. I’ve learned how to be more supportive and positive towards those around me while improving my dance technique and skills as well.” 

KC: “Besides new tricks and skills, I’ve learned the value and importance of team dynamic.”

KR: “As a rookie, I have learned so much. I think the most important thing that the Jasper Dancers has given me is a newfound love for dance. I’m not just dancing for a teacher or for a competition, which is still very important, but I’ve learned to dance for me which is much more meaningful. I feel connected to dance again, which I haven’t felt in a long time.”

TQ: How would you describe your time on the dance team so far?

SR: “The Jaspers Dancers is such an uplifting environment. Everyone pushes each other to be their best and truly cares about each other. It is such an amazing team to be a part of.”

KC: “My time thus far has been challenging, educational, and so much fun.”

KR: “Obviously, due to COVID-19, this year has probably looked much different than what the vets may know. But this has been all I know and I’ve loved every minute amidst the circumstances. The team is such a positive and supportive environment and I’m so happy to be dancing with such an awesome group of girls.”

TQ: Why did you decide to audition for the Jasper Dancers?

SR: “After taking a year off from dance, I realized how much I missed it. Watching the Jasper Dancers perform inspired me and made me want to come back to dance.”

KC: “Dance has been so important to me for so many years. I knew when I was looking for schools that I wanted to dance in college. I saw the Jasper Dancers YouTube videos and I loved their style and wanted to be a part of their amazing team.”

KR: “I originally did not want to dance in college, but after I saw the Jasper Dancers social media and how positive and happy the team looked, I decided to think about auditioning. Then, I took a virtual class with Coach Kait and that just solidified the fact that I wanted to try out.”

The six Jasper Dancer rookies pose on the steps next to the chapel, featuring Katie Rachman (upper left), Skylar Rossi (Upper Right), Lauren Kaweki (middle left), Kat Connelly (Middle Right), Brylee Watkins (bottom left), and Madison Sicuranza (bottom right). (Courtesy/@manhattancollegedanceteam on Instagram). 

TQ: What were auditions like with COVID-19 restrictions?

SR: “Because of COVID-19, the audition process was completely virtual. We had to go through a technique and choreography round where we submitted videos of us performing different skills as well as an interview portion.”

KC: “Auditions were intense, they were virtual of course. There were three rounds, skills, choreography, and then an interview.”

KR: “We had to learn all the choreography through a video and then film and submit everything. Additionally, we had a virtual interview. It was quite different than any other audition that I’ve done, but I liked the fact that I could go back and practice the choreography over and over again until it was to my own standards, which you’d never be able to do in a live audition.” 

TQ: What is your favorite part of being on the dance team?

SR: “My favorite part of being on the dance team is getting to work with so many talented, positive girls.”

KC: “My favorite part about being on the team is that I get to be challenged and pushed while dancing with such talented and supportive girls by my side.”

KR: “My favorite part is the positive environment. Before every practice, we sit down and set goals so everyone is in the same mindset. We cheer for each other and encourage each other during long hours in Draddy. I can feel the overwhelming support for each other so strongly within our team.”

TQ: Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

SR: “Before performances, we all huddle up and talk about our routine and what to remember. We do the same team chant before we go on and then encourage and hype each other up until the music comes on.”

KC: “At the beginning of each season, the team comes up with a little chant. The change is unique to the team that year and everyone helps create it.”

KR: “I do have a pre-performance ritual. A friend of mine that I danced with throughout middle and high school, and I have a little dance that we do right before we go onstage and I still try and FaceTime her before I perform and we do our little routine.” 

TQ: How will COVID-19 affect your competition season, what will be different compared to past seasons?

SR: “As of right now, we don’t know what lies ahead for competitions. We are all hoping to be able to compete but we can’t be too sure what the next few months will bring. At this time, we don’t know anything regarding basketball games either. Since our future is uncertain, we are focusing on growing as a team in our skills and performance ability. This season we are really focused on still working hard and finding ways to showcase all we’ve worked on. This semester we worked on a series of dances that were recorded and will be released as a virtual showcase in the coming months as well as a lot of hype material for social media.”

KC: “Everything is so uncertain. I don’t really know a normal competition season for the collegiate level but I know this season won’t be it. We don’t have much information but I know my captains and coach will make our season as best as they can even if we don’t get the opportunity to compete.”

KR: “I am not sure how COVID-19 will affect our competition season as everything is still up in the air. But know that the Jasper Dancers will never just sit around, we’ll always be finding something to work on. As far as comparison to past seasons, as a rookie I’m not quite sure. I know that we usually go to one or two local competitions and Nationals down in Florida, but who knows what that will look like this year.”

TQ: What are your goals for the upcoming season?

 SR: “This season our goals are really to make the most of each day because not all teams have the opportunity to be dancing like we are. We are focused on growth and deepening our love for dance.”

KC: “My personal goal remains the same from last semester, which is to make the best of what I have. Our team came up with this year’s motto which is “All in because we have today.” This means we will put in 110 percent always because anything and everything can get taken away from us at any moment. If I’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that you need to live in the moment and never take anything for granted.”

KR: “Personally, my goals are to continue working on confidence and technique when I dance. As a team, we have worked on taking every day to the fullest and being all in. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so take this day to put in 110 percent and work as hard as you can.”