Cover image courtesy of Varsity Spirit; picturing University of Saint Thomas’ team.

Last weekend, college dance teams from across the nation gathered at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida to compete in the Universal Dance Association’s national competition. There was great anticipation for teams to surpass last year’s iconic dances. Many teams delivered, coming in with innovative choreography. As dancers ourselves, we have our own opinions on the strengths and flaws of the winning dances, as well as some underappreciated performances in the D1 and D1A categories. Though the competition was tough, here are some of the outstanding performances that emerged victorious.

D1A Hip Hop

In this division, the University of Nevada Las Vegas Rebels took first place, beating last year’s champions, Louisiana State University. They performed a hard-hitting hip hop dance, choreographed by Andrew Elam from The Lab, to “Forgot About Dre.” The routine was perfectly in sync and filled with high-energy moves. Although they gave a thrilling performance, the costume featured baggy blazers which interfered with our ability to see precise movements, causing the overall dance to look messy. In comparison with their other competitors, this dance was by far the most unison. The team moved as one and the precision of every move was off the charts. The dance’s mix of strong movements and loose, fun grooves made it interesting and very fun to watch. Though they were up against some tough competitors, the Rebels stole the show with their exciting and energetic performance.

D1 Jazz

In the D1 Jazz category, first place went to the University of Saint Thomas. They performed a heartfelt routine, choreographed by BLANK, to “Turning Tables” by Adele. The routine had two perfectly synchronized turn sections, one a la seconde turn section and another section that went into an aerial. The dance never had a dull moment because of its complex formation changes, leg extensions, tumbling tricks, and lifts. The dancers had so much emotion and kept their performance up the entire time. This dance had gorgeous choreography, technique, and costumes. While the University of Saint Thomas definitely brought their A game, we think Hofstra University deserved to place higher. Hofstra came in 4th place, right behind Grand Canyon University (2nd) and University of Santa Barbara (3rd). Hofstra’s team performed a routine choreographed by Zach Galasso and Mark Meismer to “We Won’t Move – Acoustic” by Arlissa. This performance showcased impeccable technique, flawless turn sections, and beautiful jumps. Hofstra’s dance team is the perfect example of dancing like a team, and their dancers never misstepped. While Saint Thomas’s performance was exemplary, we believe Hofstra University should have won.  

D1A Jazz

The University of Minnesota won first in the D1A jazz division with their piece to Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale. This dance, choreographed by world-renowned Talia Favia, took a very different approach to most traditional collegiate jazz performances. It was very stylized and incorporated lots of thrashy, abstract movements, which were emphasized by their down-styled hair. Ohio State University’s jazz dance to Sweet Dreams by Beyonce took second place, falling half a point behind Minnesota. Ohio State had a much prettier dance, emphasizing their dancers’ technique and artistic reach. Though they were the reigning 2022 champions, their performance fell just short of Minnesota’s. Minnesota’s combination of cleanliness, elaborate formations, and difficult choreography led them to the win.

D1A Pom

In the D1A Pom division, the University of Minnesota won yet again, beating Ohio State University by a whole point. Minnesota’s Pom performance, choreographed by coach Amanda Gaines, featured higher-than-ever jumps and synchronous yet difficult turn combinations, propelling them to first place. However, Minnesota lacked “sharpness,” one of Pom’s most essential elements. “Sharpness” refers to how direct and strong movements are. With respect to sharpness, we actually thought Ohio State University performed better, though the dance itself was not as challenging.

D1 Game Day

In the final category, D1 Game Day, Hofstra University won with a dance choreographed by Dani Eustice. Game Day represents the type of dance you would see performed during halftime at games. This dance was full of energy, yelling, and cheers, making it very entertaining to watch. They transitioned between jazz cheering and hip hop seamlessly in a fast-paced performance, making it easily one of the most entertaining dances. 

The UDA nationals showcased some of the best talent throughout the nation. As the 2022-2023 college dance season comes to an end, it’s time for top dance schools to start preparing for next year. Let’s see what they’ll bring.

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