The University of Saskatchewan Dance Team held auditions in September 2018. Nearing the end of their first year together, the team has already won awards in several provincial competitions and has received attention from global championships.
The team started when head coaches Jill Martin and Brogan Beechinor met while judging city dance championships and talked about how there wasn’t a dance team at the U of S. Four months later, they had a full team ready to go.
Since they began practicing and performing in fall 2018, the team has been doing well in competitions. Their first appearance at a contest was the February Ice Breaker competition in Regina where they won Ultimate Dance Grand Champions and first place in both Jazz and Pom.
More recently, they won first place for Pom, Jazz and Hip Hop at the March 23 Saskatchewan Cheerleading Association Provincial Championships, also in Regina, and were awarded the highest scholastic dance mark of the competition.
Madison Burns, first-year arts and science student and team member, decided to try out for the team as a way to continue her dancing career and to meet people in her first year of university. She says she considered attending the University of Regina because of the lack of a dance team at the U of S.
“I didn’t want to go down to the U of R, but I was contemplating it because they have a really good dance team. I also know a lot of girls who go out to BC or Toronto to continue dancing,” Burns said. “I was torn up about it — I wanted to keep on dancing.”
For Burns, joining the dance team has also been an opportunity to connect with other dancers. She says the bond between the team members, even in their first year of performing together, is uncommonly strong.
“It’s been a great help for me,” Burns said. “There’s nothing more bonding than going out and knowing you rocked your dance and then receiving recognition for that. I just love being there as a team.”
Burns says the team’s win at the SCA Provincial Championships shows the growth of the team this season.
“When you have a new team, you don’t really know how each other or how everyone works. Being able to talk to each other and knowing where everybody is — that’s what group dancing is about,” Burns said. “If you watch our beginning dances, we are kind of unsure — later on in the season, it’s all muscle memory, and we feed off each other’s energy so much more.”
Looking to the future, the dance team aims to represent Canada on a global scale. Although, funding is a limitation. The team doesn’t currently receive any funds from the university, and Martin says the costs of running the team have been surprising. The group has sponsors for things like clothing and studio space, and they hold fundraisers.
Burns says that being hired as a promotional team for the Huskies hockey games — handing out prizes to the audience and taking care of Howler — has been a big help.
“We are basically the security guards for Howler,” Burns said. “We make sure he doesn’t fall over or get attacked by children.”
The team is already looking to next year and beyond. Martin says they will be aiming to get bigger sponsors for competitions outside Canada like the International Cheer Union World Cheerleading Championships.
“Because there’s not a lot of open dance teams all over Canada, we have a good chance of becoming one of the first Team Canadas at some world competitions,” Martin said. “We are already looking at auditions and planning what the team’s going to look like for next year.”
Ana Cristina Camacho / Staff Writer
Photo: U of S Dance Team / Supplied