GVSU dance wins second straight hip hop national title

GVL / Courtesy - Rachel Orao

Rachel Orao

GVL / Courtesy – Rachel Orao

Mason Tronsor

Back-to-back national championships. Four national titles in six years. The Grand Valley State dance team is putting in work to become a dynasty.

The Lakers brought home the National Dance Alliance Division II hip hop championship trophy after competing in Daytona Beach, Florida from April 7-9.

“It feels like the first time again,” said GVSU co-captain Kaylin Walters. “It is an incredibly exciting and rewarding feeling. These past few months have consisted of working and drilling the routines, and the team was very dedicated to putting in the extra work. We are a family and being recognized nationally is extremely rewarding.”

Championships across Divisions I, II and III were held at the event. The Lakers came away with a first-place laurel, a feat most other programs failed to accomplish. In the hip hop championship, the Lakers posted a total score of 9.551. Valdosta State finished in second place with 9.400 points, and Lindenwood finished third with 9.274 points.

Additionally, the Lakers finished third in the jazz finals competition, bested by two other Division II schools.

The journey for the national champions began back in June 2015. Development of all different kinds of skill sets goes in progress after tryouts, and the team is set. After this took place, the squad attended camp in Louisville in August 2015 to qualify for nationals.

Not only was the team dancing for a spot at nationals, it also was working to earn a “Gold Bid” during summer qualification competition. Due to a small budget, a Gold Bid is vital for the Lakers because the NDA helps teams with some of the expenses at nationals.

Once the team arrived at nationals, the road only got steeper. The squad must learn the entire routine and have it down pat for national competition. The pressure continued to mount.

“There is definitely a lot of pressure going into the competition,” said GVSU co-captain Allie Steele. “The way we handle the pressure is we really use our teammates as a support system. We are all going through the same experiences and having each other helps tremendously. We all know that it will be worth it at the end, but having such a strong support system is key to our success.”

On top of dance practice and preparing for national competition, the Lakers do double duty as college students. Like most full-time students with a heavy workload, the stress level is high, and many members of the team have jobs as well.

In the end, all the stress and hard work is worth it when the team brings home the ultimate prize. With more success comes more recognition for the program.

“We have been receiving recognition from many other universities all over the country,” said coach Katy Allen-Nyenbrink. “Coach Rael (Orao) and I have been asked to speak at the Glazier Clinics to advise other high school and college programs on how to develop and maintain success with their programs at their schools.”

Allen-Nyenbrink and Orao have been coaching the team for four years now. During those four years, the Lakers have won three national titles.