When I committed to Cornell in Spring 2020, I wasn’t looking at the incoming freshman checklist — my first priority was trying out for the dance team. The Cornell Dance Team was one of the major factors that really sealed the deal for my choice to attend this University. When I saw Cornell had a dance team similar to mine from high school, but is student-led and more relaxed, I was ecstatic. Now, as a sophomore, I cannot wait to experience my first real season as a member of the dance team. We have been gearing up for our biggest season yet, and I feel so honored to be a part of the rise of this program I feel so passionate about.
CUDT represents Cornell on a national level at competitions and events across the college dance community. We straddle the line between a dance group and a varsity sport, as we perform at varsity sporting events and represent the school nationally, but are technically registered as a student club. The team was founded in 2017 with only five dancers. Since then, CUDT has expanded to 23 members.
“It has been amazing to see the growth of the team over the past three years,” said captain Tiye Selby ’22. “I can’t wait to see what the team will grow into and I am grateful that I was here to watch and help in expanding the team to what we have today.” After a year of minimal virtual practices, there was much to do to prepare for the ambitious 2021-2022 season.
The team’s 2021-2022 year started back in April, when virtual auditions were hosted. “With exclusively virtual tryouts this year, we had to figure out how to create a level playing field when everyone had experienced a difficult year and was in a different environment,” explained competition captain Noah Gray ’23. After a long process of evaluations, the team happily welcomed four incoming freshmen.
The team is also welcoming their very first coach, Amanda Hernandez ’21. “I couldn’t be more thrilled for our very talented incoming freshmen as well as our sophomores who will truly be able to experience the team this year,” said Hernandez. “The team has an incredible student leadership team that I am so lucky to work with.”
Over the summer, the team met regularly over Zoom for socializing, weekly workouts and practices. During practice, team captains taught and perfected game day routines in preparation for the Universal Dance Association camp. Every August, dance teams, cheer teams and mascots from colleges across the Northeast come together in Scranton to kick off their seasons at the three day camp. UDA camp is a rite of passage for high school and college dancers, and I was thrilled to be back after a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19.
At UDA camp, dancers learn a lot of choreography, both as a team and in mixed-team groups. We danced from 8 a.m. until midnight on the first two days in order to perfect the routines. The entire team earned blue ribbons, which qualified us for the national championship. The team has tripled in size since our last UDA camp in 2019, so it was exciting to show off our new and improved team to the other colleges. While winning awards is exciting, everyone’s favorite part of camp was that it was a time for the new team to bond and dance together for the first time. “It was super fun because I got to meet the team for the first time, and everyone is really cool. The camp really pushed me to work hard dancing and to talk to new people,” said Lilah Lopez ’25.
CUDT is looking forward to even more growth in the coming years. Coach Hernandez represented Cornell at the Universal Dance Association College Combine in New Jersey, where high school dancers have the opportunity to network with college coaches. Attending the Combine gives us the opportunity to establish ourselves in the dance team community and attract potential dancers to the University.
The team also has big goals and big “firsts” for the upcoming school year. “Coming into Cornell as a freshman, the dance team really became my family and it was disappointing that we never got to perform together last year. I’m beyond excited to finally showcase everything we’ve been working on,” shared Savannah Jeffries ’24. Although the team has performed at football halftime before, this year will mark our first time on the sidelines cheering throughout football games, as well as our first performances at wrestling matches.
The team cannot wait to show the Cornell community the routines we have put so much time and effort into. So, make sure to keep an eye out for CUDT at the Homecoming Game!
Lauren Douglass is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]