Core Sports

Getting to know the dance teams in the OCAA

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By Sveta Soloveva

The dancers gather in a circle on the floor and rise as one like a flower blooming. Without even looking at each other, the girls synchronously do battements, standing on one leg while extending the other leg behind their bodies, spinning cobwebs with their moves to Amber Run’s haunting I Found.

For Seneca both team captain Nicole MacIsaac and coach Kalene Corcoran point to the time their team invests in dance. They rehearse at the York campus for six hours every Saturday and for three hours every Tuesday.

“The more we work together, the more it comes together,” Corcoran says.

During one of their marathon Saturday rehearsals the team was working on different choreographies for dance competitions, volleyball and basketball halftime performances in spring. MacIsaac says that the strong relationships between her dancers make even a long rehearsal enjoyable.

“Once you’ve built that relationship, you feed off each others’ energy and then together you work as a team.”

Seneca Sting Varsity Dance

Seneca Sting Varsity Dance is only a year old. However, it has already grown from just seven to 18 dancers, which led Kalene Corcoran, the head coach, to split up the members into performance and competitive teams. The performance team dances at volleyball and basketball halftimes, while the competitive team dances at competitions.

The performance team are taking a break, but they don’t leave the room. Some are stretching on the floor, others are working on their laptops, and some exhausted dancers are just lying on floormats.

Once the lyrical music switches to hip hop beats, the performance team jumps up from the floor and start practicing their hip hop and dancehall moves- it’s a party

Seneca Sting is the only team that competes against other schools. Corcoran says the team reaps the benefits of their varsity status. The dancers are provided with all-inclusive gear. Seneca pays for their rehearsal space as well as food and transportation when the team goes on their dance trips.

They took fifth in Terpsichore University Dance Challenge and Flashdance University Dance Challenge, both of which took place at Guelph’s River Run Centre in March, 2016.

“Everybody was so passionate and so able, so we all were just cheering each other on, and it didn’t feel like a competition,” Corcoran says.

Corcoran does 90 per cent of the choreography. She says their dance routines combine styles such as hip-hop, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, and tap, and although they may only last about two and a half minutes, it takes a long time to put them all together.

Some pressure comes with the captain title by example in dance, decide on costume design, keep the team up to date, and take care of administrative work. MacIsaac says she feels responsible every time the dancers are in a bad mood or cannot perform particular moves.

“If your team feels let down, you are the one who let them down,” she says.

But seeing her team rehearsing and enjoying what they do is the most rewarding feeling for her.

“It’s amazing to watch them dancing ‘cause they love it. They are happy and engaged. That means you are doing your job.”

All members of Seneca Sting enjoyed dancing before they joined the team. However, performing in front of the crowds is new for many of them. Bailey Waukey — the skateboarder with big black ear spacers poking out of his long curly hair — studies Social Service Worker at Seneca, says he likes that his team can change the atmosphere during the games, making it more festive.

“Whenever we perform on halftimes, it definitely provides a certain energy,” he says. “The atmosphere is rich.”

Huskies Dance Pack

At George Brown the Huskies Dance Pack runs onto the court every game.
Hip-hop grooves, contemporary spins, and jazz-funk moves get cheers from the audience who continue to take pictures of the dancers while eating pizza.

Smiling, the team says, is the thing that keeps the energy level up.

“Just have fun with it,” says team member Siera Goldak. “Even if you messed up, it’s okay.”

Choreographer Lindsay Aquin credits the success of Huskies to the fact that their entire team consists of dance students. They can pick up her choreography very quickly.

“They learn our choreography in one rehearsal, which is amazing. Usually it takes two or three rehearsals,” says Aquin.

Events supervisor at George Brown’s Athletics and Recreation, Federico Cortes Ortiz, says that the rehearsals are paying off.

“They prepare so much that you can see on the court. Every time they are performing, they are super organized. They know what they are doing, and the audience is getting excited. So when I see it, I get excited too.”

Ortiz says he came up with the idea of creating the team last fall for the students to practice their dance outside of school.

“We are looking for them [students] to have a good experience. So when they graduate, they can put that in their resumes,” Ortiz says.

Aquin, who graduated from two George Brown’s programs, Commercial Dance and Performance Preparation, currently dances for Raptors 905.

“Every time they go out and perform, I’m kind of looking at the audience and their reaction and how it’s working all together,” Aquin says.

The team admitted that the combination of long hours at school, intense rehearsals and late night games are exhausting sometimes.

“It’s very physical and very, very athletic,” says Aquin. “It involves a lot of cardio, multitasking and thinking. At the end of the day, you just want to go home and sleep and be ready for the next day.”

On the court The Pack looks like they’ve barely exhausted. The girls all look organized and happy, which creates positive vibes in the games.

“It’s really great to be involved in something which is not only dance,” says commercial dance student Celine Dimzon, who came to Toronto from Vancouver. “It’s a great way to connect with others who we may not have classes with all the time. And when people watch the game and say, hey, you did a really good job, you just feel happy.”

Ortiz says the team might have even more work in the future.

“There’s so much interest from from other departments of the college to have the dance team performing at their events,” he says. “We have some interest from Canada’s 150th anniversary. We might be a part of it.”

Humber Dance Company

The oldest of the three teams, Humber Dance Company, has been around for seven years. And some of the former dancers have known each other from elementary school. Captain Alexandrea Gordon and her assistant Stephanie Russo met when they were eight, when their parents brought them to the same dance studio. Russo says that their long dance relationship helped them build a strong dance team and feel more confident at school.
“When you have people you can rely on, you have a strong bone of your team as in basketball or hockey. It makes all your school experiences more intimate,” says Russo.

With a small budget that hasn’t increased since it first started in 2010, the team has since grown from seven to 55 members.

The performance team is created for students with a dance background who wish to pursue their training at intermediate and advanced levels. They perform during halftimes and other school events. The team members are expected to practice for five hours every Tuesday evenings and be ready for extra Sunday rehearsals.

If the students have no experience but want to train and perform, they can join the showcase team. The main requirement here is passion for dance! The members attend a one-hour class once a week and learn a routine that is later performed at the Humber Dance Company year -end showcase in March.

Gordon, who is in her final year of the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program, says that being a part of the performance or showcase team is a big commitment.

“Our showcase and performance teams are committed members of the club and come every single week,” she says. “It’s more of an art, but I feel like [with the] amount of work at goes into it should be considered as sport.”
Humber Dance Company is not part of OCAA, and they are not allowed to compete as a club. Meanwhile, they are free to choose any ‘cool’ game held on campus to perform in during the breaks.

Their favourite performance was for the men’s basketball game between Humber Hawks and Redeemer Royals of Redeemer The dancers performed ‘80-’90s costumes, hip hop music and a choreographer who dances for Raptors.

“It was a lot of fun,” says Gordon. “The players were not really there. It was their break. But the crowd appreciated that. It’s more exciting. And our parents and friends came. It’s nice.”

Gordon says the success of their team lies in having a positive attitude. As the captain she’s trying to set the tone and mood when her team is rehearsing or performing on stage.

“If you come in having a bad day, everyone can vibe off the way that you are feeling,” she says.

Whether the costumes are too tight, or the choreography is too long, the team dances with smiles on their faces and beam with a positive energy.

A black bodysuit, leggings and tops are some of the simple items that the girls wear. Sometimes they try to use them in different ways to fit different shows or spend weeks looking for the best deals.

“We stare at the computers for three weeks to find it,” says Gordon. “When you have about $11 per costume, it’s kind of tricky.”

Luckily, in seven years Humber Dance made a lot of friends who share their passion, and who are ready to help. The mother of one of the former dancers still makes costumes. Former dancers teach classes and choreograph sets when schedules become busy.

Russo, who is going to be the next captain when Gordon graduates, says she wants to expand their dance community even more in 2017.

“I just want to get us to grow and grow,” she says. “We started the team with just seven people, and now we are at 55. It’s a crazy
improvement.”

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