In just their fourth year as part of the Wayne State Athletic Department, the Wayne State Dance Team will be heading to the NDA Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship for the first time.
The dance team picked up two first-place trophies at a competition in Ann Arbor earlier this month in the Jazz and Pom category. Head Coach Kaithlin Fettes said getting the team comfortable performing in conditions that they may see at nationals was one of the goals of the competition.
"We went into it with an open mind of wanting the feedback from the judges as we prepare for Nationals, [and] we wanted to make sure that everybody was comfortable performing in front of a crowd," said Fettes.
The opportunity to perform at nationals for the dance team came from picking up a silver bid at the NDA Camp in Louisville, Kentucky last year.
Fettes said the opportunity to perform at nationals is a huge for a team that has only been in existence for a short time.
"We're only four years old, so to be able to compete at the national level is really exciting, [and] we're competing against several Michigan schools, which is really great," said Fettes. "Our cheer team was able to go last year for the first time and we saw the experience that they had, so it will be great to join them down there for the first time."
Biological science major and dance team member, Ashley Fulton is happy to see the hard work pay off.
“It really means a lot because it's such a young team and we've all been working so hard all year, and we spent all these hours together,” added Fulton. “It's really nice to have this event to showcase all the work that we've done thus far and just celebrate what we've done and the work that we've put in.”
She added that just like preparing for a test, practice is key in helping the team perform at its best during sporting events.
"We really just focus a lot on the choreography and doing it to the best of our ability, and when we perform it we try to do it the best [way] that we learned it," she noted.
Fulton said that in the final minutes before the team performs at halftime, she tries to focus on doing what the team did in practice.
"I'm mostly focusing on knowing the dance [steps], but also keeping calm and remembering how much I really love to dance and focusing on that," she said.
While Fettes choreographs most of the routines for the team, she occasionally turns things over to her captains and splits the team into two groups and allows them to choreograph a routine to perform during a game, which happened twice during basketball season.
"It helps keep things exciting," said Fettes. "It lets the team members utilize their creativity, their ideas and obviously it keeps routines fresh for the fans."
The WSU Dance Team and Cheer Team participated in a nationals send-off at Matthaei on April 2.
"This is a really great opportunity to have our friends and family join us to show them the routines that we've been working so hard on," Fettes said.
The dance and cheer teams will participate in the NCA & NDA Collegiate Cheer & Dance Championship April 4-7 in Daytona Beach, Florida.