Titan dance sweeps national championships

The Cal State Fullerton Dance Team took first place at the Universal Dance Association National Championship earlier this month, an annual competition held in Orlando, Florida that features hundreds of cheer and dance squads from the United States and Puerto Rico.

The CSUF dancers swept the competition, taking first place in both the jazz and hip-hop divisions. In the jazz finals, CSUF gave a winning performance dancing to an acapella version of "Son of a Preacher Man."

To win the hip-hop division, the Titans gave a playful, entertaining set, as they danced to a medley of recent radio hits. Exuding character and creativity, the team set themselves apart from the rest of the competition.

The Titans finished above the 2007 Hip Hop champs, the University of Illinois-Chicago, which came in second at this year's event. Big West Rival UC Davis also competed and placed 6th in the Hip Hop division.

In the jazz division, the Titans topped their Big West rivals Long Beach State, which finished in second place. Idaho State University came in third, while North Dakota University finished in fourth place.

"[The competition] was really good," said junior Captain Kenndra Alvarez. "In prelims we finished in first, so that pumped us up 110 percent. Our rivals, Long Beach, finished in second, only 4.5 points behind us, so that really got us pumped up. [In] finals, we went out there and gave it everything we got."

Judges scored the performances based on appearance, choreography and execution. In order to enter the competition, each team was required to send a video audition. After being selected, each school performed in a semifinal round from which teams were chosen to perform in the finals.

Coaches Sam Shen and Jennie Volkert, both CSUF alumni, have led the team for the last decade. Under their leadership, the CSUF dance team has taken first place in the jazz division eight of the last nine years. The coaches said they attribute the team's success over the years to consistency, work ethic and a family dynamic.

"It's amazing. Every year it gets harder and harder because everybody wants to beat us," said Volkert. "It just makes us that more difficult for our girls to step it up and be flawless. They can't go on the floor and leave any doubt."

Standard practice for the team is usually three times a week, but leading up to the competition, the team practiced three hours every day.

"It was a lot of work because we practiced either really early or really late, but it was definitely worth it," said freshman Sarah Ellman.

This year the Titan Spirit Squad has five new freshman, two sophomores, four juniors and only one returning senior, Jessica Mika Mitsui.

While many of this year's dancers are local products, others have come from all over the nation. In order to make the team, the dancers go through a three-step process where they perform before a panel of judges.

"The team is very talented," said Shen. "They're all elite dancers."

Next year, Alvarez said she hopes the Titan dance team can repeat their success defending their national title.

"It's hard walking in there. All the teams are after us because they want to steal our title," said Alvarez. "We're coming back each year with the intention of bringing home the title."