USI dance team takes Alice in Wonderland to nationals

Jessie Hellmann

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A male dressed in a felt overcoat, a top hat adorned with playing cards and a purple bowtie dances across the room, surrounded by women all wearing purple, black and red tutus. The man in the overcoat is Jade Perry, and the women are the female dancers of USI’s Dance Team.

They have just finished practicing their rendition of “Alice in Wonderland” for about the fourth time that night inside of the Physical Activities Building.

This 2-minute routine has been prepared and practiced on a daily basis since January for the dance teams’ performance in the NDA Nationals in Daytona, Fla. Wednesday.

“If you half-ass it, you’re only cheating yourself,” coach Amanda Mueller tells the team when they do their crunches and push-ups.

Mueller used to be a member of USI’s dance team and has returned after graduation to coach the team for her sixth year. This is the third time the dance team has been to nationals with her as coach.

She and Jennifer Guebert work together to coach 13 dancers. The team competed against eight other teams from different schools on Wednesday, and if they won they will advance to finals.

The dance team qualified for nationals after they attended a summer camp at the University of Louisville. They performed a dance in order to earn the qualification.

Mueller said the number one goal of the team is to advance to finals, and because of this goal, the team practices nine hours a week, performing the same routine repeatedly in order to perfect it.

“We sit and we pick apart every movement that we do,” said Mueller. “Everything from arm placement, to leg placement, to kicking in the same spot, to toe touches being level, all the way down to how they point their toes.”

In order to achieve success in Daytona, every team member had to dance in complete unification. They had to look the same, hold the same personality and be able to sell themselves to the judges, Mueller said.

“It’s nerve racking going against other teams you haven’t seen perform before except for on the internet, but you just can’t think about it,” said Megan Betz, senior dental assisting major. “You got to do what you got to do.”

USI doesn’t consider dance team a sport, so the dancers miss out on scholarships that other student athletes receive.

Although none of the dancers have incentive to participate, and many have constricting schedules, they dance anyway because of passion.

“We all know that we love to do this, and that’s why we’re here,” said Marissa Reidford, senior elementary education major. “We’re here for each other. You do the best you can, not because of you but because you don’t want to disappoint the team.”