GV Laker Dance Team to compete at nationals, pursue 10th championship title


Courtesy / GVSU Dance Team

Ashley Moubray, Staff Writer

Katy Allen-Nyenbrink and Rael Orao have been coaching the Grand Valley State University Laker Dance Team (LDT) for 11 seasons. Under their leadership, the LDT has won nine of its national titles. 

The LDT plans to leave for The College Classic to compete against other college dance teams for the national championship in early April. The team has overcome many challenges during their preparation for the competition and in doing so are hoping to defend their title.

The team said they work both as a “well-oiled machine” and a “tight-knit family.” They attribute their success throughout the years to their team-first mentality.

“We work to build each other up while at practice and performances by yelling out encouraging words, reminders and congratulating those on a job well done,” Allen-Nyenbrink said.

Practices are held throughout the year but intensify closer to nationals. The team meets for hours at a time, six days a week during the winter semester to prepare for the competition.

Typical practices include cardio, stretching and gymnastics warm-ups. The dancers guide each other through routines, whether for nationals or GVSU sports games. They learn new dances, perfect old ones, try tricks on the hard floor and run new ideas. 

This year, the LDT hired Sienna Lalau from The Lab to choreograph a hip-hop routine. Karl Mundt and Bayleigh Peters were hired from Innovate Dance to create the jazz number. 

“To ensure a high caliber of choreography, we bring in top choreographers from the industry,” Allen-Nyenbrink said. “This helps us in putting our best foot forward on the national stage year after year.”

During their preparation for competition, the LDT dealt with unexpected setbacks. The teams had to “reblock” their hip-hop routine, meaning they learned new formations and choreography, three times due to injuries only a week before The College Classic. 

Allen-Nyenbrink said she is proud of the team’s ability to overcome these obstacles.

“The Laker Dance Team continues to use these challenges as motivation and as a reminder that we are capable of anything we put our minds to when hard work accompanies it,” Allen-Nyenbrink said.

The LDT has gained national recognition that has spread globally through viral videos and a strong internet presence. Last May, one of the team’s videos went viral on Tik Tok and received coverage from many news outlets. The video now has 2.3 million views. Over the past year alone the team has gained upwards of 28,000 followers on Instagram, surpassing nearly every other GVSU-affiliated account.

With such reach, the LDT has collaborated with large companies in sports media and recently with Fenty Beauty by Rihanna. 

Additionally, the LDT is associated with the Alzheimer’s Walk, Shake Your Tail Feather, Ovarian Cancer Walk, Relay for Life, Hand 2 Hand, Rally with the Rapids and Gilda’s House. They often host clinics for other schools. Currently, the LDT hosts the largest kids clinic to date, providing young dancers with a chance to perform at GVSU basketball games. 

The LDT aims to foster school spirit on campus, contributing to game day excitement and campus life events.

Throughout the year practices and events bring the team closer, but Caroll said the end-of-year national is the team’s most memorable experience with one another.

“All season long we are working in preparation for nationals and the feeling of walking off the stage proud of what we just shared is unmatched,” Caroll said.

The team will leave this week to compete for the national championship at The College Classic. Further coverage of the competition and videos from the team’s practice can be found on LDT’s Instagram and Tik Tok.