The basketball season brings more to the court than just the game — it also spotlights the university’s dance team. The basketball season presents the most rigorous season for the dance team, as they perform during timeouts, halftime and on the sideline.
One member of the dance team, sophomore Juliette Baudoin, said preparation for this season was intense.
“We learn a new halftime routine for pretty much every game,” Baudoin said. “We also practice our technique, and we do conditioning at the beginning of every practice to help keep us in shape.”
However, there is more to the preparation than just perfecting the dance routines, according to sophomore Kayla Daignault.
“The first hour or so of practice is conditioning, and that’s super important because we need to build our stamina for the routines,” Daignault said. “We need to be in our best cardiovascular shape, so we do a mix of running and then strength and conditioning workouts and then we always stretch.”
This season, the team used a new method of preparation via the STEEZY Studio, an online dance application where choreographers showcase their routines. Daignault said it was the first year the team had access to this program, which she said enhanced its ability to learn new performances. Daignault said each video is 45 minutes to an hour long that walks the team through the choreography.
After the long exercise, the team huddles up, goes over the positives and wraps up the practice with its signature “rise up” chant. Daignault said it is important to connect after a long, physical practice.
“People shout out specific people themselves or the whole entire team,” Daignault said. “This is a great way to end practice with a full heart and mind.”
As the basketball season begins, Baudoin said the team has a few new tricks up its sleeve.
“We’re going to be doing a ton of new routines for all the basketball games,” Baudoin said.
Daignault said that as the season progresses, the practices begin to get more rigorous.
“It’s definitely intense now, and then it gets more intense and becomes a bigger commitment towards nationals,” Daignault said. “It’s only up from here.”
However, basketball season is just one aspect of the team’s season, and Baudoin said the team prepares year round for events such as the National Dance Alliance camp in August, sports events throughout the school year and nationals in April.
“Our normal practice schedule is three times a week where we practice for both football games and basketball games,” Baudoin said.
This year, the team placed first in the Division I Game Day and Team Dance competitions at NDA camp in Myrtle Beach. The stellar performance propelled the team to its second straight gold bid, the most prestigious award at NDA camp, that punched the dance team’s ticket back to nationals in 2023. Baudoin said the team was over the moon with excitement when they heard the news.
“We were all screaming and crying, and we were so happy,” Baudoin said. “We were so grateful and so happy that all of our work had paid off.”
In just their second year on the team, Baudoin and Daignault said they have made many friends and lifelong memories, including national recognition after a gold medal finish in last year’s national dance competition. Daignault said she will never forget the moment the team received first place in last year’s nationals.
“I’ll never forget sitting on that stage,” Daignault said. “Then we went onto the beach afterwards and took all of our pictures and it was just such a surreal moment because all of our work paid off.”
Baudoin said her favorite part of the dance season is the preseason in August.
“I loved all of our bonding that we got to do during preseason, especially since classes hadn’t started yet. So we’re able to just focus on dance and focus on bonding together,” Baudoin said.
The bonds the team built last season were one of the main reasons it was able to receive gold at nationals last year, Baudoin said, and the Phoenix looks to build its team connection to try and repeat this season.
“Our camaraderie among the team is just amazing, we’re all so close and so supportive of each other, so we’re looking to repeat that this year,” Baudoin said. “We’re all best friends, which makes it so much easier, and we’re all supporting each other and are able to unite and come together.”
As the season begins to pick up, Daignault said she is most excited for this year’s national competition.
“I think we have what it takes to show them how it’s done again and defend our title,” Daignault said.