By Steph Stanislao
You’ve seen them kickin’ it on the sidelines at home football games, and performing at halftime during basketball season, but the Bison Dance Team does much more than just that. This dedicated group of women practice for countless hours in order to reach their goal of winning a national championship every January. These girls aren’t just on the sidelines looking pretty, but rather they are hard-core athletes that managed to bridge athleticism and beauty.
…and five, six, seven, eight…the Bison Dance Team is not only always on count, but they’re always on top. In the last four years, the dance team has placed in the top five in six different events and placed sixth with their jazz and hip hop routines in 2010 at the Universal Dance Association National Competition.
Last season, while the men of the Bison Football Team were busy winning a FCS National Championship, the ladies of the Bison Dance Team were doing their part in representing NDSU as well. The dance team won a national title for their clean, sharp and creative pom routine and are hoping to do the same this season.
For the UDA (Universal Dance Association) competition this January, the Bison Dance Team will be performing a jazz routine, which the squad has been doing as a tradition for the last ten years and, because of the success the team saw last year, will be competing with a new pom routine.
The team began working on preparations for this competition season all the way back in June. In July, the team held one and two-a-day practices so that they would be ready to attend UDA camp in August. Following camp the girls had a total of two weeks off before heading into a long season of daily practices.
The team typically meets for practice six days a week and generally practices are in the early morning hours, often times breaking a sweat before 6 a.m. Team members usually get to the Bison Sports Arena anywhere from 15-45 minutes prior to the start of practice to warm themselves up and are ready to begin conditioning by 6 a.m. After the team’s coach, Meghan Wabner,is finished running conditioning, the girls stretch and work on technique. The remainder of practice time is used to work on drills and clean up dances that are performed during football games.
Besides having a regular practice schedule, the team also has full days of learning choreography. The team hires out choreographers for their national routines and has been working with two well known choreographers that are associated with the University of Minnesota.
Although they have a very steady practice regimen for the majority of their season, as the national competition nears, the workload and intensity of practice increases. Starting Dec. 26 until New Years, the team will be together practicing everyday in the Twin Cities area. After New Years the team returns to Fargo, where they will practice for 10 hours a day until the new semester starts.
The team will continue to practice for long hours, before and after busy class schedules, and will finally make their way to the College Cheer and Dance National Championship at Walt Disney World Resort on Januarty 18.
3 Things to Know About the BDT:
1.) “All the 16 girls on the team are gorgeous, they’re fun to look at and they do a very nice job at the football games engaging the crowd. But, they are the most dedicated and talented athletes at practice. They kill themselves day-in and day-out. They do anything and everything that is expected of them. That’s what I want most people to know. If you watched these girls work, you would assume that they were part of a different sport. You would never assume that they would be dancers.” —Head Coach Meghan Wabner
2.) “A lot of people take dance so lightly. We work really hard and we push ourselves. Other sports, when we’re warming up, think we’re getting punished because we’re sprinting and working hard. (laughs) We don’t take it lightly, because we dance not even four minutes when it comes down to it. During the end of our season, we spend many hours sweating and bleeding.” — Co-Captain Emily Sumpmann
3.) “We truly do love our school. We’re a little obsessed. We obsess over other teams as well. Other teams do show their respect for us, but we really do respect and admire all the other teams because they do work terribly hard. There’s a mutual respect that a lot of outsiders don’t get to see.” — Co-Captain Emily Sumpmann
By the numbers:
14 girls dance at nationals
2 alternate dancers at nationals
6 days a week the team practices
1 “week of champions”
10 hours a day that the team practices, during the “week of champions”
2 routines are prepared for nationals