Dance team takes GCU fire to national win
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
The Grand Canyon University Dance team has a strategy before a competition performance.
“We hype each other before we go out and remind each other why we do it. We do it because our game days here are something super special, and it’s like feeling that energy when you are at home – from the Havocs, the drum line, the whole atmosphere,” said Anna Ellwein, a sophomore captain.
“We go out there picturing it in our heads: ‘This is what it’s like at home, let’s bring that to the stage.’”
For the second consecutive year, the Dance team won the Game Day category in Division 1 of the Universal Dance Association College Dance Team Nationals last weekend in Orlando, Fla. They also finished fifth in the jazz category.
Dance team coach Jacque Genung-Koch said the team is undefeated in the Game Day competition in two attempts at the nationals because it’s what defines GCU Dance.
“We are a game day school. We translate what we do in our arena on a national stage and do well at it,” she said. “Getting that recognition from a national competition is really affirming that what we are doing here is the top thing we can be doing for our Lopes.”
She said competitors and judges take notice as the team moves through its synchronized moves and routines to the seven-person drum line from GCU that traveled with the team.
“I do get comments that there is a light behind us when we are on stage,” Genung-Koch said. “You can just tell it is authentic and genuine and not forced. There is an opportunity at nationals to put on a show. That maybe doesn’t go on at other people’s games, but we do put on a show here. So, we take what we do here and put it on the stage. I think it feels authentic to the judges.”
They make it look easy. It’s not.
The team has drilled hard since September and even held two weeks of rigorous practice during the semester break.
“It’s tiring and hard on your body, and obviously we don’t get to go home for that long, but you’re doing it with people you love and doing what you love,” said Ellwein, from Orange, Calif. “Clearly, it all paid off in the end.”
She said the performance requires an energy and outgoing spirit. And when the judges call for one of three categories – a fight song, game situation chant or a timeout routine – they must be instantly ready.
“For our timeout routine we do hip hop, so that is key being super tight with everything — super sharp and clean,” Ellwein said. “For college dance teams, it’s dancing together and dancing in motion. It’s not like you are 21 individuals dancing on stage. You want to look like one person.”
Twenty-one of the 33 members of the team competed, while the others stayed to perform at a home game.
GCU was in first after the preliminary round, even while working through some jitters. But the team watched the film and corrected it in the finals. University of Nebraska Omaha finished second.
“That was our goal this year. Every time we perform, it’s 1% better than last time,” Genung-Koch said. “I think it was better than 1%; that was definitely their best performance and how you want it to go, to be at their peak, at the finals on that stage.”
The Dance team comes in with an advantage – it’s expected from a GCU team every game, she added.
“The girls work really hard making sure everything is on point, whether it’s the transition from one point to the next to the way we rally to the way we sing all the words to our fight song, the genuine expressions on faces that GCU spirit on stage translates really well.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.