By Joseph Iemma
While most students were taking a break from their schoolwork, the LIU Post Dance team took a trip to Nationals, which is the highest form of dance competition for Division II programs.
The Championships only features the top dance programs from across the country. In fact, only 27 schools earn the right to compete.
Perhaps the most grueling part of a rebuild is the time it takes to return to relevancy. Hours turn to weeks, weeks turn to months, and in the case of Post’s dance program, months turned to years. What made this trip so special? It was a journey the team hadn’t taken in almost five years. However, this January the final stage of the rebuild had been complete.
Five years ago, coaches Chris Klein and Angela Stanilewicz were brought to Post with a clear cut prerogative: revive and restore the dance program, and ultimately achieve the talent level to compete for a National Championship.
Klein and Stanilewicz are no strangers to success. Prior to taking their jobs at Post, they were members of the St. John’s University dance program. During that time, the St. John’s team had made themselves known as perennial attendees at the Division I Dance Nationals. To replicate that success within the Pioneers, Klein and Stanilewicz immediately changed the culture of the dance team, claiming the message of the group would be “all about growth and commitment.”
“Every year, we have a main goal to achieve and we have put together a great track record so far,” Klein said. The goal set for last year’s team was to place within the top three at the Regional Championships in Massachusetts. Having proven themselves at regionals, the desire to compete on the national stage had quickly set in. Thus, with fire in their bellies, the team gathered last summer to set their sights on qualifying for this year’s competition.
In order to qualify for Nationals, a dance team must receive a “superior trophy” at the LIU Post summer dance camp. This is no easy feat. However, Klein made qualifying for Nationals the team goal for the summer camp group, and, given the team’s track record, one could only assume the team would do just that.
When asked if they received a trophy that summer, Klein simply replied, “We did,” but this was only the beginning of the grueling journey to Nationals. The team met religiously three times a week, and performed at seasonal men’s and women’s sporting events for Pioneer home games, just to gain more repetitions.
With all this time together, unbreakable bonds and chemistry were formed on the team. Klein recalls specifically a two-week period in which the team practiced every day in a private studio located off campus in Syosset.
“This really helped bring our team closer together, and allowed us to become more dedicated,” Klein said.
After countless hours of practice, the team had their routine down pat. Galvanized together, the Pioneers advanced to the semifinals, and finished 16th out of the 27 teams that made qualified for Nationals — just a mere two places short from advancing to the finals!
However, their valiant effort would not go unrecognized; the team rewarded itself with a trip to Walt Disney World, which ended a five-year national drought.
“Now we have a better idea of what to expect next year,” said Brooke Eversman, a sophomore Psychology major. “And we can prepare much better.”