The University of Cincinnati Dance Team is known as one of the top collegiate teams in the country. With 10 world champion titles and seven national champion titles, there is far more to the team that meets the eye.
Every year in April, the UC Dance Team holds tryouts to select new members for its legendary program. Tryouts are six hours per day for three days, where contestants learn three routines to present to judges that showcase technical skills.
During the first day, head coach Maureen Housum, also known as “Coach Mo,” introduced herself by laying down the itinerary for the weekend.
“I like ice cream, but not just plain vanilla. I need some sprinkles,” Housum often says to motivate the girls, encouraging them to stand out and show off the skills they bring to the team.
Afterward, the dancers are given a warmup routine. Pom and hip-hop are learned on the first day of tryouts, taught by the senior dance members who are graduating in May. The team competes in pom and hip-hop every year for college dance team nationals, so the difficulty of tryouts are at an all-time high every year to ensure competitors can handle future expectations.
By the second day, the dancers begin learning the fight song routine that the team performs whenever points are scored at football and basketball games. Groups of four rotate in and out of the gym to show off their school spirit. Afterward, the dances learned on the first day are played back-to-back for the dancers to review and memorize.
The third day — the final day for tryouts — is one of the most intensive experiences for dancers hoping to continue their careers at the college level. This day begins early, and the girls are constantly practicing and improving their technical skills until the time comes to show the judges what they have to offer. Eleven groups of four come out onto the floor to perform the pom and hip-hop routines, and one at a time, the dancers show their advanced skills. When the auditions end, Housum gives the girls personal letters to disclose whether they made the cut. This year, the 2019-2020 team consists of 29 members.
“There’s something special about new beginnings,” Housum said.
Practice starts in July, and dancers meet three to four times a week to work on routines for games and perfect their sideline dances and cheers. Aside from that, there are many fundraisers and appearances they get asked to attend which the girls love doing. This schedule typically stays like this until the month of November. Come December, the next two months of practice are intense.
“Outside of nationals’ practices, all you have time for is grocery shopping, sleeping or doing laundry, and you can only choose one,” said dance team member Erika Cane.
A typical practice starts between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. and can last until 9-10 p.m., with a one-hour lunch break at some point during the day.
The coaches take the girls count by count and motion throughout the pom and hip-hop routines to make them as perfect as can be. Nationals are held in Orlando, Florida, and the team spends roughly five days trying to bring home a national title to the University of Cincinnati.