GCU dancers serve as spirit ambassadors
By Theresa Smith
GCU News Bureau
With a record 32 dancers preparing for a new season, Grand Canyon University Dance coach Jacque Genung-Koch and her team took a different goal-setting approach prior to a pair of critical training camps. As all five goals were checked off and positive evaluations poured in, the Lopes dancers were beaming with a so far-so good feeling upon their return to campus this week.
“Being ambassadors is the most important aspect for us,” Genung-Koch said. “On an unsolicited basis, the camp instructors and other coaches told me that our dancers were kind, genuine, and hard-working.”
Each day, the team kept its goals in mind, beginning with being intentional learners. Between the two camps, Lopes dancers learned 38 dance routines to perform at GCU events, including Lope-A-Palooza on Aug. 23.
“We learned a ton of material,” Genung-Koch said. “Each individual dancer was evaluated on three different routines at each camp. It was mentally exhausting paying attention and being good students in class, and trying not to get tired or look tired.”
Fourth-year dancer McKenna Ross, who began dancing at age 2, noted that their brains are programmed to remember numerous choreographed steps.
“I feel like we develop the type of mind set to really get that routine down and be able to perform it,” she said. “Even with just a little time to learn it, we still know what we’re doing.”
Sophomore Paige Moss added: “It is definitely a skill being able to retain choreography. I feel like even choreography I learned in high school or middle school, I feel like I can pull it out if I refresh it or see a video.”
Throughout both camps, the dancers were usually spread out in different classes, so they could learn new routines and teach them to the entire squad. This strategy enables GCU to unveil new dance routines for each home basketball game, and enabled Lopes dancers to meet dancers from other universities. Meeting other dancers, learning their names and making connections became part of their DNA.
The third goal played off the second: Encourage each other and everyone around you.
Despite dancing most days from 8 a.m. until midnight — with breaks in between — the fourth goal was tied to maintaining a consistently positive attitude amid an incredibly challenging schedule. With hair and makeup preparation and breakfast, most alarms were set for 6 a.m.
The final goal was to be a spirited ambassador.
“We want to be ambassadors of our school, ambassadors of our faith, ambassadors of one another,” Genung-Koch said. “This is something I am most proud about. The instructors told me that our dancers inspired others. It was encouraging to be shining for everyone else.”
While all 32 dancers took part in the end-of-camp competition at the Universal Dance Association Camp at the University of California-Santa Barbara, placing second in Division I, a subset of the team — eight dancers — attended the United Spirit Association (USA) camp in Las Vegas and won the most spirited team award by a vote of other teams.
“We did really well at both camps,’’ said Genung-Koch. “I am pleased with how our team is pulling together already. I am loving the energy that all 32 individuals bring to make one force of a team.”
The eight dancers who attended the USA Camp showed that they measured up in the Dance Star competition. It started with selected dancers, including all eight from GCU, performing the same jazz combination routine. The top 30 dancers, including four from GCU, were selected for the second round, which was a turn combination. Ten dancers advanced to the final round, which was four eight counts from the original jazz combination routine combined with four eight counts of improvised dance (which was prepared the night before). Ross and Tyra Thompson made the final round — GCU was the only team to qualify two dancers in the final round — and Ross was the star of stars, the Dance Star champion.
“I wasn’t expecting that at all,” said Ross, a senior from Chandler. “It was an awesome opportunity. I got a sweatshirt and a medal. I gained confidence, and it was a great experience to represent GCU.”
Genung-Koch said, “More than anything was the fact that the person who won that award (McKenna Ross) is humble, even more than she is an amazing dancer. We established GCU’s character with team building and spirit. Since we didn’t have the whole team, the eight dancers had to represent.”
Through daily prayer each morning and night on the bus and the recitation of a new chant designed to build confidence, both camps provided exceptional experiences for GCU’s dancers.
“A lot of unifying happened on the trip, which was exciting to be a part of,” Genung-Koch said. “God has big plans for us this year and I am looking forward to how this season will unfold for this amazing group of women.”
Dance team roster:
Chloe Anglin, Kalea Culligan, Abbey Delaet, Anna Ellwein, Brittany Ferguson,
Gabi Ford, Madi Given, Heather Hagen, Megan Harmon, Kyla Hicha, Arella Hill,
Hailey Johnson, Leslie Mathany, Paige Moss, Jordan Mullins, Savannah Neat, Maya Olson,
Adri Polyak, Bri Prestia, Isabella Quezada, Marisa Ramirez, Madi Reimers, Carlie Riedel,
Lacey Rigali, McKenna Ross, Morgan Sais, Tyra Thompson, Mackenzie Van Natta,
Ashley Vest, Caity Wood, Lindsey Wood, Torie Yoshihara.
Contact Theresa Smith at (602) 639-7457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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