The UMKC dance team will compete in the National Cheerleaders Association and National Dance Alliance Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship at Daytona Beach, Fla. this week.
The team received a fully paid bid to nationals for its third consecutive year. It placed second overall in last year’s competition.
Captain Hannah Castleman, a sophomore dance major, has been on the team for two years.
“I think our biggest competition will be Towson [University],” she said.
“They have won the championship 14 years in a row,” Head Coach Michele Morgan said. “They have had the same coach for years, and their dance program has been around much longer than ours.”
Despite the stiff competition at nationals, Morgan is proud of UMKC’s progress.
“The first year we competed, we got eighth place overall, and then we placed fourth in 2009 and 2010,” she said.
According to Morgan, the team placed second in Daytona last year, and is certain to advance from preliminary competition on Thursday to the final round on Friday. About half the teams from preliminaries will advance to the finals.
“We hire a choreographer and the girls learn the [nationals] routine in November,” she said. “Then they go on break, so training is really based during the spring semester.”
Each team’s routine must include at least 30 seconds of jazz, hip-hop and pom skills. Morgan said UMKC’s squad has an “aggressive, powerful and intense theme” this year.
“The original choreography changes a lot according to our strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “Since jazz is our strongest area, that section is the longest.”
Morgan said pom is the team’s weak spot because it is not a typical style for traditional dancers.
To match the team’s aggressive theme, the outfits are all-black with cutouts at the midriff and black half sleeves. The makeup will be intense, with red lips and a black band painted across the dancers’ eyes.
Morgan said the judges will evaluate the routines by section: execution, difficulty, staging and overall performance quality.
“Staging is how the girls are spaced on the floor,” she said. “They need to be lined up a specific way.”
Overall performance quality includes aspects like facial expressions, synchronization and appearance.
The preliminary competition will be held indoors at the Ocean Center and the Peabody Auditorium. Finals will be outdoors at the Daytona Beach Bandshell.
“The dance floor outside gets tacky from the sun, so turns can be hard to hit,” she said.
Graduate Assistant Ashley Rodriguez was on the dance team the first year UMKC competed at nationals.
“I’ve seen the program progress a lot over the years,” she said.
Rodriguez was a dance major at UMKC who graduated last spring.
“Realistically I think the team can make the top five this year,” she said.