With the lights shining down on their faces and hands locked together, the anticipation and anxiety grew for the UMKC Dance Team as the judges announced the winners of the National Dance Alliance College Nationals.
Their hands squeezed tighter and tighter. The judges announced second place. Senior captains Michaela Barrett and Edith Cruz thought for sure they were going to hear UMKC, but the judges announced James Madison University as the runner up. Their excitement was unbearable. Screaming inside they knew they had won. Nine years after the start of the program, the UMKC Dance Team was finally taking home a first place trophy.
“When they announced first place, we all started bawling,” said Barrett.
According to Coach Michele Morgan Tally, who rebooted and started the dance team at UMKC, there is no greater anxiety for a team and especially for a coach than waiting to hear the count down and the judges call your name.
“It takes a significant amount of composure to not jump up and down when you know you’re the last one on stage,” said Morgan Tally.
After placing in second for the last four of the nine years they’ve competed in the tournament Morgan Tally and the dance team were determined to go back and win it all.
“We’ve all obviously been very hungry for a win,” said Morgan Tally.
The win did not come without its challenges or hard work. The two weeks prior to the competition the dance team practiced everyday for five hours making sure every move was on time and in sync.
“We describe ourselves as elegant robots—everybody is doing the same thing at the same time, always,” said Cruz. “Even [if] an angle of your chin is off or your hands are apart or together, we have to go back and do it again.”
Cruz says that Morgan Tally will freeze frame their whole routine, and if one little move is off, they have to go back and do it again.
The team competed in Division 1 Jazz Category, the largest division consisting of 22 teams, which they had never competed in before. According to Cruz and Barrett, they were the underdogs, and with the team being the youngest it had been in nine years, the competition could sometimes be overwhelming.
“We were nervous,” said Barrett. “This is the first time we’ve ever been in this division.”
The team only had five returning members and nine new members on the team. Not only was it a new team, it was a young team consisting of a lot of freshman and sophomores.
“When we first got there, everybody was all over the place, right before we were about to go on we were like okay, take a deep breath. If we get fifth place or fourth or tenth, we will be happy,” said Cruz. “Ten minutes before we were about to go on stage, everyone was crying tears of joy and despite the amount of issues we had to overcome, we did this.”
Cruz says that Coach Morgan Tally started the dance team with the goal in mind to win a national championship. On April 7th the team completed that goal.
“We went out there and left our hearts on the floor,” said Cruz. “We made a little bit of history.”