The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Lafayette Dance selects new coach, prepares for first national competition

The Lafayette Dance Team is amping up its training and practice schedule in order to prepare for its first ever national competition next semester. (Photo courtesy of Steph Davidson ’23)

After a coaching shake-up that brought Melissa Diehl in as the new head coach, the Lafayette Dance Team is looking ahead to prepare for its first-ever national competition this January.

In previous years, Billie Weiss coached both the dance and cheerleading teams. However, Weiss recently stepped down from the dance team and will only be working with cheer.

“In our most hectic part of the season, where we’re getting ready for competition, our old supervisor said that although she would see us through the end of competition, she’s stepping down as our supervisor,” senior team captain Steph Davidson said. “We were all blindsided by it.”

Davidson said that the team utilized its connections to find Diehl as their new coach.

Diehl has been a dance teacher and choreographer for over 10 years. She started dancing at age five at a local dance studio in Hellertown, Penn., taking classes in ballet, jazz, tap and contemporary dance. She then joined the studio’s competition team and competed throughout high school.

At Penn State, she minored in dance. As captain in 2012 and 2013, she led the Lionette Dance Team team to their first two national championships in school history.

While a lot of responsibility still lies on the team captains as Diehl transitions into her new role as head coach, Davidson said that receiving feedback from her on their performances has been helpful.

“She’s feisty, she’s fierce, she wants to win. And it’s really good to have a qualified authority figure in the room to kind of lead us, someone who’s led her team to win their first-ever competition and just someone who’s been through that experience before. She knows all the ins and outs, and she’s really great resource,” Davidson said.

Diehl wrote in an email that when she met the captains and learned more about what the team was looking for in a coach, she knew Lafayette was a place she could make an impact and find a long-term home at.

“They are a great group of young women, and I feel so welcome already,” she wrote in an email.

In terms of the upcoming competition, Davidson explained that the team was supposed to have a “prep year” for competition during her sophomore year, but COVID-19 disrupted these plans. Instead, the team will be going full force into this season, starting with a UDA (Universal Dance Competition) camp for their preseason. The competition will be in Orlando and the team will compete in pom and hip-hop in the Division I category.

“We’re competing with the top dancers in the nation,” Davidson said.

With the competition ahead, the team has amped up its weekly practice schedule. They practice Monday, Tuesday and Thursday before having a competition on Saturday and a four-hour practice on Sunday.

“We’re with each other all the time. When you’re not in class, you’re in the studio practicing,” Davidson said. “The team has never been this close before.”

“The team needs to fight together to win together,” Diehl wrote. “Spending time outside of practice to learn more about your teammates and understanding what truly motivates them will translate into the studio when it’s time to fight toward a common goal!”

The team also has roster photos on GoLeopards for the first time, something that members think testifies to their dedication to their sport.

“I think it’s about time that people start to see that dance is more than just cheering on other teams on the sidelines. It’s not only a physical thing, but it’s a mental game as well. I just don’t think people understand the magnitude at which we practice, especially now that we’re revamping the whole program,” Davidson said. “Hopefully, we get more recognition … Dancing through chronic pain, chronic injuries, permanent injuries – there’s no other option but to dance.”

Davidson said that having the competition goal in mind has pushed the team unlike ever before.

“I’ve never seen a team, nor myself improve as much as [we have] this semester specifically,” she said.

The team is looking for donations to help them on their journey to Nationals. The link to donate can be found on their Instagram, @lafayettecollegedanceteam.

“Any donations, no matter the amount, would be greatly appreciated,” Davidson said.

“I can’t wait for Lafayette to see all that these young women accomplish this year as they compete at UDA for the first time ever and beyond,” Diehl wrote. “I can’t express my excitement enough to be working alongside this team.  This is truly a dream come true!”

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Caroline McParland
Caroline McParland, Sports Editor

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