,You see the 11 women stretching before practice. The mood is relaxed as they talk with each other. Before you know it, music is playing and the atmosphere has suddenly changed.
This is the Emerson College Dance Team. One-two-three-four and the team is in the air, back down sliding on the ground.
Five-six-seven-eight, back on their feet moving in unison.
First-year captain Danielle Boyle, the only returning member from last year’s team, looks like an air traffic controller with her arms in the air, directing the rest of the group for the next routine and shouting out the numbers to follow the dance steps.
The dance team, as it has in the past, will continue to perform jazz and hip-hop numbers at many of the men and women’s basketball home games at Pine Manor. Their first performance is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 1 and will be followed by three more performances that weekend.
In addition, the dance team will attend the New England Regional Dance Conference at Boston University in February.
Despite the fact that dance is not a varsity sport, the team still prepares just like any other squad would.
“We break a sweat in there like any athlete would after a rehearsal or practice,” Boyle said.
The dancers work hard to prepare themselves for their physically demanding routines.
“You need to have endurance, you need to have strength,” Boyle said. “Dance requires an intense amount of strength.”
Both stamina and speed are used in each of the team’s dance routines.
“Dancers have to be as ‘rough and tough’ as any other athlete, on top of being graceful,” said Billie Larson, a junior who has been on the team for two years. “Being flexible, agile and having focus is a must.”
The team meets twice a week for 90-minute practices. Junior Emily Hapgood, who is in her first year with the team, said there is more to the routines then most students believe.
“We spend hours and hours learning and going over routines, and I think some people perceive it as just throwing some movements together,” she said.
“Practices are very intense,” Hapgood said. “It takes a lot of practice to get every last detail looking great, so we spend a lot of time on the routines that we learn and I don’t think a lot of people realize that we work just as hard as any other competitive sport out there.”
In some cases, dance lessons begin before children reach pre-school. Boyle and Hapgood both began dancing when they were three years old. Larson started when she was two, right after she learned to walk, and has been dancing ever since.
Awareness of the Emerson dance team has always been a difficult hurdle to overcome, according to Boyle.
Since most of the team’s performances are at Pine Manor, it has been difficult to gather a strong following. With the support of on-campus organizations and the Emerson students, however, Boyle feels that the dance team will be able to participate more often around campus and gain recognition for the team.
“There are groups like Emerson Dance Company who make [us] aware [of] all the opportunities, within the campus and in Boston in general, there are for dancers, so there are definitely people who will drive [the program] forward,” Boyle said.
Larson has the same enthusiasm about the future of the squad.
“I think our relationship with the basketball team and athletics is always getting better,” Larson said. “This is only the second year we’re getting funding and we have PRSSA [Public Relations Student Society of America] helping out with our public relations.”
Hapgood said she sees the dance team’s future becoming of much greater status than her teammate Larson believes.
“We want the school to realize that there actually is an amazing dance team at Emerson College,” Hapgood said. For the future, I see the dance team as becoming one of the most recognized groups on campus.”
She added, “we are going to do a lot of competitions and a lot more events in and around Emerson, and also throughout New England. I think our name is going to spread and we will become more recognized.”