The NC State Dance Team, part of the NC State Marching Band, became the first-ever ACC Dance Team Champions on April 2, and followed that win with an impressive performance at the virtual National Dance Alliance (NDA) Collegiate National Championship, finishing first in the Dance Gameday Division 1A competition, and second in the Team Performance Division 1A competition.
The ACC Cheer and Dance Championships were new this year, and were also conducted virtually. The competition came about because a group of conference cheer and dance coaches were unsure whether there would be a national competition this year, due to the pandemic. “We really wanted to be able to provide our athletes with a competitive experience, one that rewarded the work that they were putting in this year, and then see where it would go from there,” said dance team instructor Amanda Roediger.
The conference championship gave the dance team a chance to compete against different teams than they face in their NDA circuit, and Roediger said the ACC Network has expressed interest in picking up the Cheer and Dance Championship as an in-person event in the future.
Virtual competitions were not a problem for the team after a year in which they spent their first semester practicing entirely on Zoom. They were still practicing remotely over winter break when they decided to go ahead and start preparing for nationals. Their team performance routine was one they had prepared for 2020 nationals but were then unable to compete due to the pandemic. That familiarity enabled several returning team members to help teach the choreography to the new dancers using Zoom breakout rooms.
“We taught our nationals piece via Zoom…I still can’t believe they learned it via video,” said Roediger. “It’s such a hard thing to do in person, that I was like, ‘I don’t know, we’ll see how that goes.’ We just went section by section and they learned the entire thing over winter break, and once we were back in person in the second semester we were able to go from there. It was crazy. I was very impressed.”
Once on-campus classes resumed in the spring semester, the dance team was able to begin practicing in person. The dance team is an element of the athletic band courses offered each semester by the Department of Music.
Co-captain Caroline Bandy, a senior majoring in nutrition sciences with a concentration in applied nutrition, said practicing in person made a huge difference in terms of how quickly they were able to learn new routines and their ability to bond as a team.
“I feel like we did turn a corner starting this semester, when we were able to get some practice facilities, and we were able to practice as a team, taking all the precautions, wearing a mask and things like that,” said Bandy. “The year started off unprecedented—we didn’t know what was going to happen. But it was great to be able to finally come together and compete and earn that title.”
The team faced several big challenges this year. One was finding ways to build camaraderie with all the new team members when they weren’t able to meet in person until January. The other big challenge was staying motivated to put in the work every week when they weren’t able to perform at athletic events.
“Just trying to keep everyone on track and keep everyone in a good mindset was a pretty big challenge this year,” said co-captain Brianne Goebel, a senior majoring in criminal justice and Arabic. “I would say the second semester as a whole was way better because we knew we were going to do nationals either way, whether that be virtual or [in person]. That was something that we were always like, ‘Okay, we get to do that,’ to have an end goal in mind. I think that was a major part of our success this year.”
For the competitions, the team recorded their routines in Reynolds Coliseum over several weeks. The ACC Championship only had one round of video submissions, and all 24 dancers on the team were able to participate. Virtual NDA Nationals required two rounds of submissions. After the preliminary round, teams received scores with feedback and were able to make changes before recording and submitting their finals videos. Roediger and the Dance Team knew they were in a good position for Nationals following their preliminary scores, but the ACC win came as a total surprise.
“I think this kind of brought everything together in a way. We didn’t think we were going to get the closing that we did,” said Roediger. “I think that has made it all worth it to everyone. I think we were hoping to just feel really proud about what we put on the floor at the end of the day, which we were, but we had no idea that we would come out in a victorious way. That wasn’t expected, so when it’s not expected it feels so much better.”
The chance to compete at Nationals and the ACC Championship helped to show the new members of the team what they can achieve together. It also gave the returning members, especially the seniors, a meaningful close to a difficult year and a chance to celebrate together. Winning just made the experience that much sweeter.
“[Finishing first and second at Nationals] meant a lot, because there were a lot of things we weren’t able to do,” said co-captain Gracyn Easton, a senior majoring in business administration with a concentration in marketing. “For us, knowing what we missed out on this year, this was very rewarding. And I think also for the new girls that hadn’t experienced anything before, it was also like, ‘Oh wow, this is what we can actually do with all the work we put in,’ which is really cool.”
The NC State Dance Team will hold auditions in May. Follow them on Instagram @ncstatedanceteam for details.