The University of Tennessee dance team is one of the nation’s best: From 2007–2009, the team won consecutive Universal Dance Association (UDA) national titles and almost snagged a fourth in 2010, coming in second to the University of Minnesota by a mere point and a half. Each summer, as part of its preparation for the upcoming school year, the team attends a UDA camp, where members hone their skills, learn new routines and compete for awards. Senior and co-captain Sara Banks has been a member of the UT dance team since her freshman year. Last summer, she and her teammates attended a UDA camp held on their home campus, and Sara kept a diary of her weekend for DS. —Katie Rolnick
July 30, 2010
Even though this is my fourth year attending a UDA summer camp, I had butterflies in my stomach about this first day! After meeting the 12 other teams attending camp this weekend, we jumped right in. We began by learning our first routine—known as the “A routine”—which is usually jazz, hip hop or poms, and is one of two routines that will be evaluated by the UDA staff on the last day of camp. The teams divide up so that a few girls from each team learn each of the five different A routines. A different UDA instructor teaches each routine and we’re given about 90 minutes to learn and perfect it. Three of my teammates and I learned a jazz dance to a mix of Janet Jackson songs. The choreography included multiple pirouettes, a variety of leaps and a section of quick footwork with coordinating arms. It was hard!
Later, we had the home routine evaluation. It’s not mandatory, but teams that choose to participate perform a dance they’ve worked on prior to arriving at camp. Every year our team creates a new routine. This year we did a jazz dance to “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney. For two weeks in June, we spent 12 hours a day learning the routine, which was choreographed by two UT dance team alums (with some team collaboration). We had a two-week break and then practiced for another week and a half in July, making final changes and polishing the routine.
There were only about five teams competing and we were fourth on the lineup. We waited off to the side of the floor in the Thompson-Boling Arena, where UT’s basketball team plays. We watched the other teams perform and cheered them on until it was our turn. I think we did a great job, but we won’t find out how we placed until the awards ceremony on the last day of camp.
At the end of the day we learned a routine for the fight song competition tomorrow. Teams can perform a dance to their school’s fight song or they can learn the UDA fight song. Because UT doesn’t have a set fight song, we learned the UDA routine. Teams can add 16 counts of their own material, which we did. Plus, we added some creative formations and ripples to the UDA choreography. We only had a couple hours to prepare, but we’re ready for the competition tomorrow.
July 31, 2010
This morning, we split into groups again to learn “B routines” (the second dance that will be evaluated tomorrow). I learned a hip-hop dance to the song “Girls on the Dance Floor” by Far East Movement.
Next up was the fight song competition. Even though we only had one night to learn the choreography and perfect it, I think we performed really well. But we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out the results.
At the end of the day I was exhausted, but I got a burst of energy when we got back to the hotel. (Though the camp takes place on our campus, it’s a team tradition to stay at a hotel.) Every year, the night before evaluations, we put on a team “recital.” We trekked up to the top level of the hotel’s parking garage and performed the A and B routines for each other. As I watched everyone dance, I realized what an amazing group of girls I had surrounding me.
August 1, 2010
I woke up today feeling anxious about evaluations. Everyone at camp performed the A and B routines. When we were done, the judges gave us individual feedback. They told me I had excellent technical execution, but that I could work on grounding my hip-hop movements more. After they gave comments, they handed each of us a blue, red or white ribbon. Every UT dancer earned a blue ribbon, the highest award, on both the A and B routines, which earned us a team superior trophy. We also won two distinctions that were selected by all of the teams at camp: The leadership award and the most collegiate team award, which means we showed good sportsmanship and were excellent representatives for our school. And, to top it all off, we found out that we placed first in the home routine competition and second in the fight song competition!
This summer’s camp has been an amazing experience. As a senior captain, I got a glimpse of what will be expected of me and experienced what it’s like to be the team motivator. But I learned the most about leadership from the other dance teams. There were a number of groups, including those from Milligan College and East Tennessee State University, that had just recently started their teams from scratch. Seeing their dedication and excitement inspired me.
At the end of camp, our team set a goal to push for greatness during the school year. We’re focusing on making our dancing more about helping others, whether by performing at charity events or serving as volunteers. I have no doubt that our passion and commitment will help us achieve that goal.
Well, this brings class videos to a whole new level! Choreographer Phil Wright and dancer Ashley Liai have been together eight-plus years, but she was still in total shock when he proposed to her mid-dance at Millennium Dance Complex earlier this week. Why? Well, the whole thing was unbelievably perfect.
In the dance industry, dancers don't always have a say in what they wear on their bodies. This can get tricky if you're asked to wear something that compromises your own personal values. So what should you do if you find yourself in this sticky situation? We sat down for a Q&A with "Dancing with the Stars" alumn Ashly Costa to answer that very question. Here's what she had to say about the options dancers have surrounding questionable costumes.
The groundwork for Erin Carpenter's company, Nude Barre, began when she was a teenager. At 16, she earned a spot in the residency program at The Kennedy Center in partnership with Dance Theatre of Harlem. "We were required to wear nude—as in, our actual skin tone—tights and shoes," she remembers. Carpenter brought her "sun tan" tights and a pair of pink ballet shoes with her, because that was all she could find. But she wasn't allowed in class because her dancewear didn't match her skin. "I was so embarrassed," she says. "I looked unprepared. I just didn't have the right nudes." Her teacher explained that the dancers dyed their tights and pancaked their shoes.
There are dancers and then there are DANCERS! Whitney Jensen, soloist at Norwegian National Ballet, is the latter. The former Boston Ballet principal can do it all. From contemporary to the classics this prima has the technical talent most bunheads dream about. Need proof? Look no further.
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's dance inducing hit, "Despacito," is so catchy it should probably come with a disclaimer that warns people of an uncontrollable itch to tap your feet or bob your head. Some might even feel inclined to go all out and break it down. Niana Guerrero is a prime example of "Despacito's" uncanny ability to unleash the red dressed emoji dancer within. 💃🏽 💃🏽