Laurier dancers show well in Guelph
Anticipation ran high through the veins of the dancers donning the purple and gold on Saturday.
The Wilfrid Laurier University competitive dance team kicked off their competition season at the Terpsichore Dance Celebration’s University Dance Challenge in Guelph.
Competing against 20 other adult-level teams, mostly hailing from Ontario colleges and universities, Laurier entered ten numbers under the direction of co-captains Alessandra Santaguida and Catherine Fitzsimmons.
Unlike most teams at Laurier, the team is coached, organized and choreographed entirely by students.
“We care about it so much,” Fitzsimmons told The Cord prior to the competition. “That’s your own work out there.”
Santaguida noted that students with no exposure to the world of dance may underestimate the hard work put into the competition season. “I think because [the general student body] doesn’t see our competitions or performances they don’t realize how much we train. We train around eleven hours a week.”
Second-year student Mitch Daniels, a hip-hop dancer, has found the environment refreshing. “When you dance in studios, you’re segregated into different age groups,” he explained. “Being around people all my own age has been great.”
But Daniels stated that though his peers are dancing, no one is afraid of being brutally honest. “We’re a strong team because we’ll tell someone if something’s not right.”
The team began their day with small open group “Elephants” choreographed by first-year communications student Tori Vercillo.
Vercillo had never choreographed such a mature piece before. “I’ve choreographed before, but it was mostly for five-year-olds and little kids,” said Vercillo.
“Elephants,” a unique blend of modern and lyrical jazz, featured not only precise and powerful technique but a dramatic display of heart-wrenching emotions. “Everyone’s a really strong dancer, and that’s great, but more importantly their emotions are really strong.”
While the dancers certainly delivered an emotive performance, they found themselves ousted in the category by the University of Western Ontario’s Huron Heat team.
Though Huron Heat tended to dominate in many categories, Laurier’s dancers earned an impressive seven “outstanding” awards (the highest honour) and three “superior” awards (the second-highest honour), as well as a choreography award and three special awards.
The team garnered many first and second-place finishes for their categories, but the true glory came at the end of the night when Laurier swept the overall awards.
The hip-hop and lyrical groups took third and fourth place respectively, the lyrical and jazz groups placed third and fourth and the team’s open line placed third overall.
Though it looked as if Laurier had zero first-place wins, the judges revealed at the end of the night that Laurier’s team had the highest average score with a staggering 94.34 (a mark in the “outstanding” range), making Laurier the strongest overall dance troupe.
A low point in the day was the small acrobatics group’s performance. Several dancers noted needing more stamina throughout the day and vowing to improve that for the next competition. “We got way too excited and freaked out a little,” Fitzsimmons noted.
One of Laurier’s strongest assets was the musicality of all the dancers. While many other teams resorted to laboured fouette sequences, Laurier instead used their precision and strength to create dynamic and unpredictable sequences.
This year also marks the first time a male jazz and lyrical dancer was part of the team. First-year Brian Reitzel’s strength was put to excellent use in every number, a strategy that worked in Laurier’s favour.
Fitzsimmons and Santaguida attributed their success to the group’s strength of character. “Yes, we have a lot of really well-trained technical dancers,” Santaguida said, “But this group offers much more than that.”
Fitzsimmons echoed Santaguida, adding, “We have a ‘no drama’ policy, and we actually have an interview component as part of auditions.” Both captains felt that the supportive, family-like atmosphere helped the team to succeed.
The team will be attending two competitions in Brantford later in March and will be showcasing their work to the public on March 18 at the Laurier Athletics Complex.