Aquinas Dance Team competes at NAIA Nationals

Photo courtesy Ashley Rowe

Article by Anna Johns , Reporter

The Aquinas dance team was thrilled to find out they earned one of the three available at-large bids to the 2021 NAIA Competitive Dance Championship. This was their fifth appearance at nationals and they competed against eight other teams. 

“We are looking forward to soaking up the experience and performing at our season-best.  I’m so proud of the girls for accomplishing what they have so far, and I cannot wait to see how well they do at the biggest stage in the NAIA.  This team thrives under pressure, and I have no doubts they will meet their own expectations.” said head coach Ashley Rowe.

The team practiced on the mock court in the Mayfield lot and on the outdoor turf track. They found this difficult because of early morning practices in tough weather conditions. When Aquinas College moved to virtual instruction in November 2020, they began to learn their competition routine over Zoom. 

“When we had to switch over to Zoom, it was very different. We hadn’t learned two-thirds of our dance yet and were now struggling to create intricate choreography when most of us didn’t have enough space in our houses to practice,” said team member Anna Putnam. “Our team really pulled it together though and I couldn’t be more proud.”

They hadn’t been able to practice as a full team and had just under two weeks to prepare for their first competition. Despite these obstacles, they persevered and during the beginning of the season participated in virtual competitions.

“At a normal dance competition, you can use the energy of the audience to fuel your own energy in the dance. Now without the audience there, the team has to feed off of each other’s energy,” Putnam said. “We will talk to each other and yell out things during the dance which helps motivate us to keep going. We have really done a great job keeping up the energy throughout the routine this year.”

The team’s first performance was less than a month ago, and took place at Sturrus. They won the virtual competition by nearly 13 points and scored a 4 out of 5 difficulty score in all three styles. Recently they placed runner-up at the NAIA regionals with an overall score of 84.05.

Having the opportunity to compete in the national championship is always bittersweet for the team. Last year they qualified and traveled to the championship, but were sent home before they had the opportunity to compete because of growing concerns surrounding COVID-19.

For Putnam, this is her last competition with Aquinas before graduation. “It still doesn’t seem real honestly. I don’t think it will hit me until this summer when I don’t get to come back to practice. I’ve loved being on the team every year and I can’t wait to see what the team does in the future,” Putnam said. 

Over the weekend the team made their fifth appearance at the NAIA Nationals and placed 6th overall with 73.23 points. In addition, team member Hallie Casey was named the 2021 WHAC Dancer of the year, and fellow team members Anna Putnam, Sophia Serrato, and Madison Baese were tabbed as Honorable Mention All-American selections.

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