It’s been a season of transition for the College of Saint Benedict dance team.
Not only does the program have a new head coach in former assistant Kate Dempsey, but the roster has expanded from 14 to 23, including 13 rookies (12 first-years and one sophomore) who were not with the team a year ago.
Yet, with seven seniors still on hand to provide leadership and stability, the Bennies are feeling good about their prospects heading into this weekend’s Universal Dance Association (UDA) National College Championships at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
“It’s been a learning opportunity for me,” said Dempsey, a former CSB dancer herself, who took over when longtime head coach Anne Sumangil ’99 stepped down this past offseason to begin the Doctor of Education in Educational Professional Practice program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
“But I have to give so much credit to our seniors, especially our captains (seniors Elise Sande and Trisha Gebhart). They’ve done so much work behind the scenes – answering emails, setting up fundraisers and organizing events. The leadership they’ve shown has been awesome.”
Sande said the transition to Dempsey has been “seamless,” and added the new head coach has the respect of everyone on the team.
“She works so hard for all of us,” Sande said. “It’s really amazing to see. One of the things she always tells us is not to dance perfect, but to dance human. That’s great advice that I think will stick with all of us Bennie dancers the rest of our lives.”
Gebhart was quick to second that assessment.
“She’s such a positive person,” Gebhart said. “I love the way she leads by example. She shows us each and every day that we’re good enough to do really big things.”
Sande said working the newer members of the roster into the flow has progressed smoothly as well.
“From day one this season, we’ve really tried to take the rookies under our wing,” Sande said. “To show them what Bennie pride is all about. And now, after all the hard work we’ve put in, we’re looking forward to going down to Orlando and bringing a piece of St. Joe with us.”
The Open Jazz semifinals are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. (CST) Saturday with the Open Pom semifinals set to start at 2:34 p.m. (CST) (though times can range anywhere from 30 minutes early to an hour late depending on how the competition progresses). Participants in the finals in both divisions are scheduled to be announced at 6 p.m. (CST) Saturday.
The pom finals are scheduled to start at 8:04 a.m. Sunday (CST) and the jazz finals are slated to begin at 11:30 a.m. (CST).
Those interested in watching can do so at VarsityTV (tv.varsity.com/signup), which requires a subscription fee. CSB finished seventh in both divisions at nationals a year ago.
“We’d like to break into the top five in both pom and jazz,” Dempsey said. “We know we’re capable of doing that. We’ve put in a lot of hard work. Hopefully we’ll see all that preparation pay off.”
That’s exactly what Gebhart is expecting to see happen.
“We’re ready,” she said. “We know we have the potential. It’s just a matter of making sure we put our best routines forward.”
The members of the College of Saint Benedict Dance Team will compete at nationals this weekend in Orlando, Florida.