Leaps of faith

Leaps of faith

Story by Cal McNeil

Junior Aimee Staack closes her eyes and takes a deep breath as she prepares to leave the backstage area and head towards the dance floor.

“You do the routine over and over and you keep correcting the things you need to correct and then by the time you get on stage it’s just natural to you,”
Staack said.

She enters the McPhee Gymnasium, alongside the rest of UW- Eau Claire dance team, and approaches the front of the floor.  They hold their beginning poses as the large crowd waits for the music to start and the routine to begin.

The dance team’s hip-hop performance was the opening showcase routine of the 2011 Eau Claire Dance Team Competition and Clinic, which was held in the McPhee Gymnasium on Nov. 19. Although the team only performed as a showcase and not part of the competition, they organized the entire event, making sure everything went smoothly throughout the day.

The annual event is one of the many ways the Eau Claire team raised money to cover costs for their trip to Florida in January for the 2012 Universal Dance Association National Championship competition, but Staack, one of the three co-captains, said the event is more than a way to raise money.

“Clinic and competition is a huge fundraiser for us, it’s one of our biggest every year,” Staack said.  “But it’s also a way for us to reach out to other schools.”

The team invited dance teams from Wisconsin and Minnesota to take part in the competition, including both colleges and high schools.

This year’s teams included Regis, Elk Mound and Prairie Farm for the high school competition, and Exisdanz from Minneapolis, UW-Madison Premiere Dance and UW-Stout dance teams for the college/open division competition.

The team members also acted as choreographers and instructors for the three-hour dance clinic that took place after the competition portion was over.

Leading up to the event, the team choreographed and planned various routines. This took time out of their weekly practices to focus attention away from their nationals hip-hop and jazz dance routines and more toward the clinic and competition.

The clinic included four routine options: jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, and technique. The visiting teams chose their favorite and were taught the routine and performed at the end of the clinic, Staack said.

Sophomore Alexa Breen, one of the three instructors for the jazz clinic routine, said being an elementary education student really helped her teach the routine.

“I like teaching and being in front of any group,” she said.  “It can be a bit stressful, but helping the girls learn is my favorite part. Knowing that we made up and taught them a fun dance that they enjoyed feels great.”

This year was the first time the team decided to award scholarships to one dancer from each clinic routine group who showed dedication, passion and an overall willingness to learn and improve their dance skills, Staack said.

Megan Skinner, a co-captain of the Eau Claire team, said the dancers who won the scholarships were given awards and are able to come back next year to the competition and clinic without the registration fees every dancer pays to take part in the day’s events.

“It pushes the dancers to work harder and that also reinforces teams to come back for next year,” Skinner said.

Freshman Jessica McCamish, from Premiere Dance of Madison and the winner of the scholarship from the lyrical routine, said the clinic was enjoyable to take part in and the competition was a great way to practice performing their jazz and hip-hop routines, which they placed second and third during the competition.

“It was fun to see other college teams perform and it was a great way for our team to get feedback on our dances,” McCamish said.

Alyssa Kruger, one of the instructors for the lyrical routine said deciding who would win the scholarship was hard, but said that McCamish was the perfect candidate for the award.

“We chose Jessica based on the dedication she showed,” Kruger said.  “She would ask questions when she had them and she would also put in the extra time to make sure all corrections were applied to
her dancing.”

Kruger commented on the success of this year’s event saying that she was happy with the clinic and competition, despite the slightly lower number of teams that registered this year.

She also added that she is relieved the team can now switch their focus on practicing and perfecting their routines.

“Planning for the clinic was stressful, so as much fun as it was, I am glad that we can focus on future competitions now,” Kruger said. “We still have a long way to go before nationals, but we are all willing and are working hard to improve our routines at every practice.”