University of Minnesota: Dance Dynasty, cont’d.

Almost exactly three years ago I published a blog post that quickly became my most popular and widely shared post. I had been upset that I could not find a single article dedicated to the dual national titles earned by the University of Minnesota Dance Team, making them the five-time defending champions of both the Pom and Jazz 1A Divisions at UDA Nationals. I couldn’t believe that in a state so barren in sport titles, the only mention of this victory was a footnote in a single article published quietly almost 24 hours after the fact.

So I wrote my own article, which both called out the lack of coverage and paid tribute to the athletes who had claimed two national titles in one day. Based on the overwhelmingly positive responses and number of views and shares that quickly stacked up, it was evident that I was not alone in feeling let down by the radio silence surrounding collegiate dance team in the media.

Which is why it is so disappointing that I’m writing this post.


Source: UDA

Last night, the University of Minnesota Dance Team won their eighth consecutive 1A Pom Division national title, as well as the title for the 1A Jazz Division, their tenth since 2003.

This afternoon I went to look up articles about their wins, and found…one.

The article, published by Minnesota Daily, is a beautiful tribute to the team and is an absolute must-read, and the Star Tribune published a blog post as I was finishing up this one, but that’s still just two articles covering Minnesota’s only team with eighteen national titles earned in the current century. By comparison, the number of articles covering the Gophers men’s basketball loss to Penn State on Saturday is in the double digits.

Additionally, when I went to check UMDT’s official website to verify the number of titles they’ve won, I found this:


I’ll ignore the fact that the 2016-17 season finished before their webpage was built out, and instead focus on the header text not being updated in over two years.


Led by senior captains Kelsey Sutter and Alli Woodbeck, the University of Minnesota Dance Team earned their seventeenth and eighteenth national titles at UDA Nationals in Orlando, FL on Sunday, January 15th.

UDA – that is, Universal Dance Association – was founded in 1980 to help handle the need of educational training for what were called “drill teams” at the time. UDA helped spearhead the name change to “dance teams” to better promote the activity. Today, they run camps nationwide to provide quality training to high school and college dancers, and host the national championships for college dance teams competing in Pom, Jazz, and Hip Hop in three different size divisions.

UMDT competes in 1A, the largest, and most competitive division. In the weeks leading up to Nationals, the team practiced up to 30 hours each week, run by coaches Amanda Gaines and Ashley Hanne — both alumnae of the team. Each minute of every practice was dedicated to perfecting the intricate choreography, turns, leaps, tricks, and spatial elements critical to their victories.

Source: UMDT

Source: UMDT

Their Jazz, titled Element, was a deftly emotional routine that achieved edgy choreography with superior strength and unity, and featured highly difficult turn and trick combinations executed with near perfection, ensuring their reclamation of the 1A Jazz title after coming in second to the University of Tennessee last year.

In Pom, the team showed off their signature jumps, outstanding fouetté combinations, and overall excellent synchronization in a style reminiscent of cheerleading, but mainly known for its high-energy routines and military-like precision. UMDT was a clear crowd favorite in this category, and secured their eighth consecutive 1A Pom title.

Several other Minnesota teams competed as well over the weekend. The University of St. Thomas won the Open Hip Hop division title, and  Minnesota State University Mankato and St. Cloud State University came in third and fourth, respectively, in the Open division for Pom. In Open Jazz, the University of St. Thomas placed second, the University of Minnesota Duluth placed third, Minnesota State University Mankato placed sixth, St. Cloud State University placed seventh, and the College of St. Benedict placed fourteenth.

A post on the UMDT’s Facebook page from Monday morning thanks the fans and the team that helped with their victory:

“What an incredible weekend! We are so thankful for the love and support we received from our choreographers, consultants, spirit squad, alumni, friends, and our families. We couldn’t have done this journey without you! It was an honor to take the floor and compete against the INCREDIBLE teams in D1A–the talent on the stage (in all the divisions) was so inspiring, and to see everyone’s hard work come to life reminds each of us why we love what we do.

Winning our 8th consecutive Pom National Championship and 10th Jazz National Championship in team history is the icing on the cake for a memorable season. We are so proud of the fight and passion and pride we showed on the floor, and will cherish the memories from this weekend forever.

Thank you Gopher fans for everything!! #onelove”

Source: UMDT

Source: UMDT

The Star Tribune article marvels that the University of Minnesota has a “dance team dynasty” that “deserves recognition”. The fans have thought so for awhile, but we’re glad the rest of the state is slowly starting to take notice, too.

UDA 1A Pom Final Rankings

  1. University of Minnesota
  2. The Ohio State University
  3. University of Iowa
  4. University of Kentucky
  5. Rutgers University
  6. University of Cincinnati
  7. University of Colorado
  8. University of Nevada Las Vegas

UDA 1A Hip Hop Final Rankings

  1. University of Cincinnati
  2. University of Kentucky
  3. Universtiy of Memphis
  4. Louisiana State University
  5. University of Nevada Las Vegas
  6. San Diego State University
  7. Arizona State University
  8. Temple University

UDA 1A Jazz Final Rankings

  1. University of Minnesota
  2. The Ohio State University
  3. University of Tennessee
  4. Arizona State University
  5. University of Michigan
  6. Rutgers University
  7. San Diego State University
  8. University of Arizona
  9. Florida State University
  10. Louisiana State University
  11. University of Wisconsin
  12. Washington State University

UDA 1 Pom Final Rankings

  1. Hofstra University
  2. Cal State Fullerton
  3. Saint Joseph’s University
  4. North Dakota State University
  5. Long Beach State University
  6. George Mason University
  7. Stony Brook University
  8. Tennessee Tech University

UDA 1 Hip Hop Final Rankings

  1. Northern Arizona University
  2. University of Delaware
  3. Saint Joseph’s University
  4. Southeastern Louisiana University
  5. College of Charleston
  6. University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

UDA 1 Jazz Final Rankings

  1. Cal State Fullerton
  2. Hofstra University
  3. Northern Arizona University
  4. University of Delaware
  5. Southeastern Louisiana University
  6. University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
  7. Stony Brook University
  8. Missouri State University
  9. Long Beach State University

UDA Open Pom Final Rankings

  1. Orange Coast College
  2. University of Central Oklahoma
  3. Minnesota State University Mankato
  4. St. Cloud State University
  5. The College of New Jersey
  6. Northwest Missouri State University
  7. Endicott College
  8. University of California San Diego

UDA Open Hip Hop Final Rankings

  1. University of St. Thomas
  2. University of Puerto Rico Bayamon
  3. Lindenwood University
  4. University of Puerto Rico Carolina
  5. West Chester Universty
  6. St. Joseph’s College
  7. Avila University
  8. University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras
  9. University of Wisconsin Eau Claire
  10. Georgia College
  11. Westfield State University

UDA Open Jazz Final Rankings

  1. Lindenwood University
  2. University of St. Thomas
  3. University of Minnesota Duluth
  4. Orange Coast College
  5. University of Central Oklahoma
  6. Minnesota State University Mankato
  7. St. Cloud State University
  8. Grand Canyon University
  9. Avila University
  10. University of Wisconsin Eau Claire
  11. Bridgewater State University
  12. Northwest Missouri State University
  13. St. Joseph’s College
  14. College of St. Benedict
  15. The College of New Jersey
  16. University of Puerto Rico Carolina
  17. University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras

Congratulations to all the teams that competed!


University of Minnesota: Dance Dynasty

Minnesota is a great state. We’re known for our 10,000+ lakes, hearty winters, Paul Bunyan, and the healthy reputation of the Twin Cities. Arguably, we are not known for having national champion sports teams. Between the Vikings, Twins, North Stars, Wild, Timberwolves, and Lynx, we can boast three World Series titles and two WNBA titles (we have the Lynx to thank for winning anything in the current century). The University of Minnesota fares slightly better when it comes to national bragging rights, but only just. Women’s hockey triumphed in 2012 and 2013, but the Gophers’ national championship record is spotty, particularly in recent years.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a team that consistently won national titles? Wouldn’t it be worth celebrating if we had a team that won, say, five national titles in a row?

Just for a moment, imagine the fanfare of a fifth consecutive national title for the football team, or men’s basketball team. Imagine the headlines proclaiming the dominance and prowess of the athletes, the leadership of the captains, the strategic genius of the coaches, and the swell of Gopher pride all over the state. Imagine, if you can, the ridiculous impossibility of failing to find a single article written about our five time national champion baseball or hockey team.

Yes, it would be so wonderful to be able to claim a team of our very own as national champions for the fifth time in five years.

Which is why it’s so disappointing to know that we can, yet choose not to celebrate it.

This past weekend, the University of Minnesota Dance Team clinched their fifth consecutive national title, bringing their total to fourteen since 2003. Can you guess how many news articles were written to celebrate, or even mention this fact?

Source: Gopher Athletics

Source: Gopher Athletics

If you guessed one, you’re right…ish. CBS posted a story while I was writing this post that fails to mention anything about consecutive titles or recognize any of the team members, and devotes an entire paragraph to other winners of additional championships that took place over the same weekend. Still no mention from the Star Tribune or Pioneer Press. By comparison, there were six articles about Sunday’s men’s basketball game in view on the sport page of the Star Tribune website, and they lost by 21 points.

Now hang on, I can hear a deafening wave of impending comments: DANCE ISN’T A REAL SPORT!!!

To all of you, two points.

  1. If you are obtuse enough not to recognize that dancers are first and foremost athletes, please educate yourself, or better yet, try to survive a week of dance team practices.
  2. You’re missing the bigger picture that Minnesota has an athletic team (see above) with five consecutive national titles. Do you know when the last time that happened was?

Moving on.

The University of Minnesota Dance Team won their fifth consecutive dual national titles this past Sunday, January 19th, in Orlando, FL (yes, technically they’ve won ten national titles in five years).

Led by captians Rachel Fellows, Kim Saunders, and Rachel Saunders, the 18 woman team competed for and won the 1A Jazz and 1A Pom divisions.

In Pom, a style known for its high energy routines and military-like precision, UMDT performed to a mix featuring All I Do is Win and was a clear favorite with their signature turns and jumps, and outstanding synchronization.

Source: UDA

Source: UDA

For Jazz, the team flawlessly executed Uninvited, which brilliantly showcased their extraordinary technique and choreography, as well as a number of stunning turn combinations, and highly difficult and crowd-pleasing tricks.

Source: UDA

Source: UDA

Reactions from the team’s fan base and ardent admirers hit the Twittersphere throughout the weekend, including a tweet from Flip Saunders, President of the Minnesota Timberwolves, whose twin daughters help co-captain the team.


A message from the team was posted on their Facebook page early Monday morning following their victories: “We are so excited to have won the Division 1A Jazz and Pom National Champions for the fifth year in a row! Thank you to everyone for all of the support over the season and this weekend!”

As one fan put it, “You know that word dynasty people like to throw around? This is what one of those looks like.”

Hear that Minnesota? We have a dynasty.

It’s time to start recognizing that fact.

UDA 1A Pom Final Rankings:

1. University of Minnesota
2. Ohio State University
3. University of Nevada Las Vegas
4. University of Colorado
5. University of Memphis

UDA 1A Jazz Final Rankings:

1. University of Minnesota
2. University of Tennessee
3. Ohio State University
4. Arizona State University
5. University of Colorado