UMass dance team heads back to nationals

Despite hardships the UMass dance team travels to Daytona Beach

Picture+courtesy+of+UMass+Dance+Team

Picture courtesy of UMass Dance Team

By Jordan Meneo, Collegian Correspondent

The University of Massachusetts dance team is off to compete in nationals in Daytona Beach, Fla. this week.

A trip two years in the making and one in which senior Alyssa Cesario said, “means the world to [them].” However, while the team gets to attend the competition, it is not without its hardships.

The dance team at UMass is unlike most other programs. While the team is technically a club sport, it is closer to a UMass athletic program. For example, the team performs at all home basketball and football games as well as practices all year round while attending various UMass events. However, while the team is closer to an athletics program, they do not reap the benefits that other athletics do.

The major difference between other athletics and the dance team is funding. Most programs such as major sports like hockey, football, etc. are fully funded by the school but when it comes to dance, the University does not give them the same treatment. While the team receives a small amount of money from the school, majority of their funding comes from their own fundraising events or directly out of pocket.

“A majority of the teams we compete against are fully funded by their schools so paying for travel, choreography, costumes, and apparel isn’t a second thought for them,” team captain Ami Berkemier said. “Meanwhile we have to plan our whole season around our spending.”

One of the biggest drawbacks with the lack of funding is the role of a coach for the team. The team captain acts as a coach, handling choreography, planning, running practices, and communications with athletics, club sports, and administration.

“I wouldn’t give it up for the world, my teammates motivate me to be the best teammate and leader I can be on a daily basis,” Berkemeier.

On top of that, Berkemeier still holds the responsibility of being a dancer on the team as well. Although it is a challenge, Berkemeier says she welcomes it. The group hopes that opportunities like these will help expand the program to its fullest potential.

“We are truly so grateful for the opportunities UMass athletics have given us like traveling and performing at tournament games and becoming a part of UMass spirit squad,”  Berkemeier said.

Despite dealing with these challenges, the team continues to bulldoze through on their road to nationals. In the summer, the teams attend a camp in which only the top three programs qualify for nationals. The top two teams receive a gold bid which grants them four people’s flights and two hotel rooms paid for at nationals, making it important for the team to receive one of these bids, which they did. They then spend the whole season practicing their national’s routine, all while attending and dancing at football games, basketball games, and other UMass events. Towards the beginning of the season, practices are three times a week, but in the weeks leading up to nationals, the team practices nearly every day including some practices that can be over six hours. However, the team does not view these long hours as a bad thing.

“No one is forcing us to show up and work hard, we do it because we have so much love for the team and what we do,” Berkemeier said.

Despite this hard schedule, the team says it only brings them closer together. Teammates can often be found hanging out together outside of practice because they are, as described by one another, their “favorite people to be around.”

“Our team is a family,” Cesario said. “My teammates are truly my sisters and I can turn to them with anything in the world.”

The UMass dance team is set to take the national’s stage on Thursday. This will be UMass’ first time there since 2019 as the competition had been held off due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Jordan Meneo can be reached at [email protected]