Photo courtesy of Kathryn Kriss
In a sea of black sparkling costumes, the Drake University dance team stands out in bright blue and white. Last Friday, the dance team went to the Iowa state competition, taking home a fourth place trophy in jazz and a second place trophy in poms.
The state competition, which takes place every year at the end of November or beginning of December, was held downtown in the Iowa Events Center last Friday. High school and college teams from all over the state flock to Des Moines, gel their hair back and prepare for two solid days of dance performances. On two different stages, performances ran from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. as different schools compete in different divisions. The dance floor sees many styles of dance, from hip-hop to lyrical, and military to hoopla. All numbers are performed in front of a live audience and evaluated by a panel of judges, with awards given out as soon as all of the performances are done.
Because of Drake’s Division I status, the dance team is placed in the Division I category as well. This means instead of going up against colleges of similar size, the girls are competed against teams from schools five times the size of Drake. These schools pull talent from all over, giving out scholarships just to be on the team. They have a coach on staff, several different sets of uniforms and available practice facilities. The girls are given advantages and opportunities, and bring that talent to the competition.
What the Drake team may lack in advantages, they make up for in hard work. It practices for two hours, four times a week. Often, it cannot get into the multi-purpose room in the Bell Center until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., sometimes not finishing until 11 p.m.
Instead of a coach, the team is run by two captains. Sophomores Kimberlyn Wurster and Ashley Garvais take turns teaching dances and running practice. Team advisor Wendy Diekema takes care of all of the administrative business and oversees the logistics of the team. Occasionally, guest choreographers are brought in to teach dances. Day to day operations, however, are run entirely by students.
“I felt my background in dance was strong and knew I wanted to help the team,” Garvais said concerning her responsibility of captain. She said it’s difficult to find ways to purchase costumes and get funding without a coach.
It can also be a challenge to be a captain and a coach, as well as a peer and friend, all at the same time. Still, Garvais said “state was fun getting to participate and compete against some of the top universities in Iowa.”
The girls like this, saying that it gives the team a more informal feel. Because the person running practice is a fellow student, the girls aren’t afraid to speak up and ask questions in practice if something in a dance doesn’t work. Everybody working together, helping each other out on tough moves or giving constructive criticism makes the team feel more united and like they all have a stake in the team’s success.