Days before returning to Ithaca for an icy first week of class, the Cornell Dance Team could be found taking a national stage in Orlando by storm.
Cornell danced among over 200 other college dance teams in the Universal Dance Association College Dance Team National Championship, one of the “most prestigious college dance team competitions in the country,” according to its website. The team competed in the Division 1 jazz competition, where it faced 30 other colleges in that contest.
This was Cornell’s first year competing in a national dance competition. While the matchups only went on for three days, the team traveled to Florida several days early — first to Tampa, and then to Orlando — to practice.
“We rented a space and practiced seven or eight hours a day,” said Amanda Hernandez ’21, a member of the championship-participating squad.
While the team did not qualify to compete in the final round, according to Hernandez, it left the competition feeling accomplished and motivated to compete more in future years.
And even though the team failed to place, its time spent in Florida marked a significant leap forward for a group that up until recently was only a casual club. Two years ago, Hernandez helped transform what was formerly the “Big Red Dance Squad” into the Cornell Dance Team, and competed for the first time last year in competitions around the Northeast.
While Hernandez had several experiences dancing competitively on the national level in high school, she said that for the rest of the team, the experience of national competition was “inspiring.”
The Cornell Dance Team was the only team at the competition without a coach. Adding to the team’s outlier status was that they — along with Harvard — one of only two Ivy League schools to compete.
“We’re the only group that was able to accomplish this,” Hernandez said.
Despite the team’s status “between club and team” making recruitment more difficult, Hernandez said that the team is heading into the spring semester feeling more established as a part of Cornell.
The team receives the majority of its funding from private donations, the most generous of which came from a relative of a team member, according to Hernandez.
The dance team will hold tryouts this spring, seeking to become a more established part of campus culture. Outside of competitions, a slightly expanded version of the dance team — comprised of 13 people — regularly performs at Cornell football games.
“We changed the dance culture at Cornell,” Hernandez said. “And none of this would have been possible without the support of every member of the team in addition to our families.”