Winter break is usually meant for relaxation, but for the Keene State College Dance Team, the workload was piled high. After months of fundraising and practice, the team headed to Orlando, Florida, from Jan. 11-16, where they competed at the Universal Dance Association (UDA) National competition.

The 17 members represented KSC against 22 other colleges from around the nation in the open division. Last year, the team made it to the finals, but this year the competition was “so extreme,” that they did not place.

KSC junior and dance team captain Monica Doorley said that while the team did not make it to the final round, they scored better than the previous year. “We scored better than last year by around two overall points,” Doorley said. “That includes the music, the choreography, the performance and the difficulty, so overall our score was better.”

Contributed photo by Sarah Olson

Contributed photo by Sarah Olson

Even without a trophy to take home, the team’s optimism remained intact. KSC senior and team manager Sarah Olson said that she is happy with their results. “The trophy isn’t everything,” Olson said, “It’s great and I’m glad that we have one from last year, but it’s not everything. We can learn so much from this and it also makes everyone work a little bit harder.”

Both Doorley and Olson said they are proud of the team, especially because they are the only team without a coach paid through the school.

Doorley said she is responsible for all coach-like responsibilities, including choreography. For nationals, the team brings in a choreographer, but Doorley said she adds the team’s own style to the routine after they learn it. “After we receive the dance, it’s my job to clean it, add tricks and change anything as I see fit for the girls,” Doorley said.

While this is Doorley’s third year attending nationals, she said the experience was very different. “As captain, I saw all of the behind-the-scenes stuff,” Doorley said. “I helped with the flights, the hotel, the competition’s rules and regulations; it was a lot of responsibility.”

However, nationals was different for general team members as well. KSC sophomore and team member Kelsey Walsh said that this is her second year attending nationals, which made her feel more prepared.

“I knew what to expect this time around and had a lot more confidence going into it,” Walsh said. “You’re going up against teams from D[ivision] one schools and it’s really intimidating, but at the same time it’s fun to learn from.”

The team received several compliments while at UDA, according to Olson.

Contributed photo by Sarah Olson

Contributed photo by Sarah Olson

“Our hard work definitely did not go unnoticed,” Olson said. “Other teams from other states would come up to us and compliment us, especially since we don’t have a coach.”

Walsh said the experience of the competition is more important than winning. “Our memories that we made together during late practices and in the [Disney] parks are what we are going to really remember and that is what matters,” Walsh said.

Preparation for Nationals began in August, on top of learning other routines to perform at sporting events. Practices start two weeks before the school year begins. “We have practice at least three times a day and they are three or four hours long, and when we go to Florida we have long practices as well,” Olson said.

“Yeah we didn’t make it to finals, but it’s been just as enjoyable and upbeat,” Olson said. “We’re a great team and we are much more than a club. We work really hard and I want others to realize that.”

Olivia Belanger can be contacted at obelanger@kscequinox.com