By Allene Abrahamian
“Five! Six! Seven! Eight!” shouts Annie Kennedy, the coach of the University of Maryland Dance Team and the girls point their toes, plié, or shimmy, and fall to the ground. “Okay, one more time.”
Kennedy has been University of Maryland’s dance team coach since 2001.
Kennedy’s career includes dancing with the Los Angeles Ballet, the Santa Barbara Ballet, the Washington Ballet and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. She ultimately returned to her alma mater to coach the dance team, according to the team’s website.
The team differs from similar campus organizations, for example, the Terps cheerleaders, in that it is more financially independent, said Olivia Marques, one of the captains and a senior education major.
The team raises money through crowdfunding via the Launch UMD website. According to the site, the team has raised $5,432 this year from a total of 95 donors, which is $432 dollars more than the projected goal.
Another way the team earns money is by working at Ravens games through concessions in Baltimore. The school’s marching band assists with the budget as well, said Kennedy. The team members use the money for hiring choreographers and purchasing new uniforms and they are looking forward to new warm up jackets and headbands for this year’s football season, said Marques.
The dance team performs during UMD basketball and football games, and sometimes makes special appearances at away games.
“We add to the spirit of Terrapin sports,” said Marques.
Marques said the team follows the Mighty Sound of Maryland marching band to games and works closely with the band members, a part of the job which drew senior Dani Woodard to the team.
“What sold me was the fact that we’re involved with the band,” said Woodard, a senior English and communication major.
She said one of the differences between the dance team and the cheerleaders is that dance is more associated with the school of arts and humanities while cheer is more a part of the athletic department. The dance team does not compete and the cheerleading team performs more stunts and flips in their routines, while the dancers are more technical, but the dance teams girls do help to rally up the crowds at sporting events and keep them entertained, said Woodard.
Membership on the dance team comes with a training and practice commitment of at least four days a week and new members are welcomed each spring, according to Woodard. Two clinics are held before auditions, during which prospective dancers learn routines for both a jazz song and the traditional university “Fight Song.” The routines include turns, leaps and multiple technical elements. The routine to the jazz song is more traditionally technical dancing while the routine to the “Fight Song” is more cheerful and includes poms, said Woodard.
“You come in with big curly hair and full makeup,” said Woodard of the auditions which will be held in May.
Auditioning dancers are judged by a panel consisting of Kennedy, a choreographer, and occasionally, alumni dancers, who analyze dancers’ personalities and skills, said Woodard.
Woodward said the judges look for someone “with a lot of spirit.”
“It’s not about who is the best dancer,” she said. “It is about who can put their best foot forward.”
Alumni dancers not only come back to judge auditions, but return to perform at the homecoming football game as well, said Kennedy. When she took over and the team transitioned to being primarily dance-oriented, from its original role as an all poms squad, alumni were invited back to participate. A group of former dancers from the 1980s come out during the game and do a pre-game routine with the band, while more recent alumni enjoy dancing on the sidelines, said Kennedy.
“They’re really good, they’re still quite good. “They haven’t done it in a year, so when they come home they pour their heart into it. It’s the best day of the year,” said Kennedy.