My experience traveling to compete in a college dance competition


The dance team poses together after performing their nationals routine for the last time Saturday morning in Orlando, Florida. (Photo courtesy of Abigail Durham)

Abigail Durham, Staff Writer

The USI Dance Team and I had the opportunity to travel to Orlando, Florida from April 6-9 to compete at the College Classic Dance Team Union Nationals Competition. 

Under their division and a style of dance, any college dance team could enter this nationals competition. The dance team and coaches paid for our airfare and stay of this trip, but some fundraising done throughout the year also helped cover the cost. 

Before this trip, I had never been on a plane before. Leading up to my first flight and when I finally was in my seat, I was pretty nervous. Nervous about take off, being so high in the sky  and for how bad my ears were going to hurt from the altitude level change. 

My view from the first flight on the way to Orlando, Florida on April 6 for the College Classic Dance Team Union Nationals Competition. (Photo courtesy of Abigail Durham)

Despite this anxiety, I found the flights to be a very cool experience. Since our first flight was so early in the morning, it was great to see the sunrise so high in the sky. Also, it was amazing in general to look out the window and see how small buildings and landmarks looked. The only negative was yes, my ears did hurt badly for a while afterwards, but they got better with each flight. 

We learned our nationals routine at a camp in December 2022 and practiced it until competition. The routine had a solely-pom dance style and had a ‘90s theme, accompanied by a two-minute mashup of songs; “Straight Up,” “No Scrubs,” “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” “Genie in a Bottle,” “Say My Name” and “Wannabe.” Our costumes were “Clueless” inspired with long white socks and a plaid skirt and top. 

The first time we competed was at 9 a.m. April 7. We were up and getting ready by 6 a.m. We were able to run the routine one time about twenty minutes before actually performing it. 

After we were done performing, we watched the teams after us and waited to hear our ranking for that day.We placed fourth.

Later the same day, we had a practice where we got to hear the judges’ feedback on our performance and what time we would compete the next morning. Our coaches spent this practice making changes to the routine and drilling the corrections we received. After practice, we all got dressed up and went out to team dinner at The Hampton Social.

A view of the stage where college dance teams from all over the United States performed their nationals routines on Friday and Saturday at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. (Photo courtesy of Abigail Durham)

 The second time we competed was at 8 a.m April 8. We were awake doing hair and makeup before 5 a.m. and were the first group of the entire competition to perform. Again, we practiced for about twenty minutes before we actually performed it. 

After we finished the routine for the day, we watched some of the other teams and spent almost the entire rest of the day at the hotel pool. 

Before both times that we competed, I was feeling pretty nervous because I had never done anything like this before. Although I was nervous, I was also feeling excited about being able to show and actually do our routine. I felt confident in myself and the rest of the team, and this confidence increased after each execution of the dance. 

The dance team poses together after performing their nationals routine for the last time Saturday morning in Orlando, Florida. (Photo courtesy of Abigail Durham)

Later on Saturday, the competition held a “battle” where the highest ranking teams in higher divisions showed their dances. Whoever did the best and received the most applause and hype, won the battle. Although we did not get to compete in this battle, it was a lot of fun to watch and cheer on the other dancers. 

After the competition, awards were given out around 8 p.m.. Despite making all of the changes  the judges asked for before the second performance and nailing all of our marks, we placed fifth in our division. 

The dance team poses before practicing their nationals routine Thursday to prepare for their competition Friday. (Photo courtesy of Abigail Durham)

Once the competition was over, I was feeling proud of myself and the team for what we accomplished and for all of our hard work all season. I felt relieved to finally be done with the routine after drilling it so many times. I think the ‘90s song mashup will be forever imprinted in my brain. After finishing the competition, we spent the rest of the day relaxing and preparing to go home April 9 and back to classes April 10. 

I had never competed in a dance competition before this one because I had only ever trained in a ballet studio before college. Overall, the experience was a lot of fun. It was great to step out of my comfort zone by doing a lot of things I had never done before, like going on a plane and dancing competitively. It was also great to bond with and become closer with the dance team coaches and the other girls on the team.