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UAlbany Fails To Recognize Dance Team After Placing At Nationals

By Jackie Orchard

Published October 29, 2019


The UAlbany Dance Team during practice. (Bailey Cummings / ASP)

To understand how the UAlbany Dance Team feels this year, you need to imagine you’re on a

beach.


You have just danced your heart out and are lined up in a stadium in Daytona Beach, Florida,

sweating through your cut-off top while the sun beats down on you, when you hear the

announcement. It reverberates through the packed stadium. "For Division 1 Hip-Hop - The

National Dance Association third place winners are … University at Albany!"


At first you can't believe it. Then you jump into your teammates' arms, shouting, screaming,

crying. You have scored the biggest win in UAlbany Dance history.


A few months later, at the Welcome Back event hosted by Athletics, you are sitting in an

auditorium full of athletes. University officials are welcoming students back to school and

praising everyone for last year's great seasons.


You smile at your teammates, expecting that soon you'll be congratulated for being the third

best hip-hop dance team in the nation.


The teams are announced, one by one. You tick them off on your fingers while the

anticipation builds. This is your moment.


But the moment never comes. There is no mention of the dance team by UAlbany Athletics.

The ceremony is another example of what the dance teams says is a lack of recognition for

their group’s contribution to university athletics and their status outside the campus.


“One of our biggest accomplishments was when we placed third at our national competition

last year in Daytona Beach,” said Junior Isabelle Ehrlich, a captain on the dance team who has

been dancing since she was two. “And I’d say that most people at our University do not know

that.”


This includes UAlbany Athletics.


UAlbany Dance Team captains from left to right: Isabelle Ehrlich, Molly O'Shea, Jenna Snide (Bailey Cummings / ASP)

The Ceremony


Last year, the UAlbany dance team fundraised and paid their own way to Nationals in

Daytona Beach. Scraping by with home-made, DIY costumes, the team of 15 girls won third

place in the nation for Division 1 Hip-Hop, beating 15 other teams. They also received the

highest overall score in UAlbany Dance history.


At the start of this year's season, Ehrlich and her teammates said they were excited about

being invited to the Welcome Back event for athletes. The year prior, they were not invited to

this event, so they thought they were being recognized as a “real team” by Athletics.

But as soon as they arrived something felt… Off.


“You have to look under your team for your name,” Ehrlich says. “And we’re like, ‘We don’t

see the dance team.’”


Unlike the other teams, the dance team was left off of the sign-in roster for the event. Instead,

the girls were instructed to hand-write their names on the bottom of the page.


“It was a little embarrassing ,” Ehrlich says. “And a let down. Because we felt like we were

included and invited to this year's ceremony. We thought we were on good terms, and we get

there and we’re like, ‘Oh, we’re not on the list.’”


During the event, the dance team’s name was not called when each sports team was

recognized for their performance last year.


“They listed all the achievements of the other teams that were a part of Athletics,” said

Senior Jenna Snide, another Captain. “And we were sitting there waiting for our turn, wondering, ‘Oh my God are they going to say it?’ and they didn’t. It was kind of a slap in the face.”


UAlbany Athletics declined to comment on this incident.


Ehrlich and other team members emphasized that they were happy to see the other teams get recognized. But they don’t think that UAlbany Athletics understands the gravity of what

happened last year.

"The National Dance Competition is like the Super Bowl for dancers," says Senior Molly

O’Shea, a captain on the team.


“In the dance world, it’s a big deal,” O’Shea says. “Everyone that knows about it watches it

and it’s intense, everyone loves it and everyone is going crazy just like they would be watching a football game.”


The team says they have not brought any complaints to Athletics directly because they do not

want to lose the few privileges they do have, like performing at the games.


“You don’t want to overstep because they’re the upper people,” Snide says. “They’re your

superiors... You don’t want to step on any toes.”


When asked about these specific incidents, UAlbany Assistant Athletic Director for Media

Relations Pete Iorizzo said:


“Every year, the UAlbany Dance Team makes this campus enormously proud, and we

sincerely appreciate all the squad does for UAlbany Athletics. If members of the team have

concerns or suggestions, Athletics would be happy to sit down with them to have a discussion.”


The Dance Team practices a new move. (Bailey Cummings / ASP)

Need For Practice Space


The dancers say they also struggle to find practice spaces.


Even though they are the official UAlbany dance team, they are not guaranteed use of the

only dance studio with a barre and mirrors.


“Our dance studio that we practice in three times a week, even before games, we have to

share with school clubs and stuff,” O’Shea says. “So if people reserve the room, it could even be just strangers, if they want to reserve that room and if the dance team doesn’t have it reserved we don’t get it.”


The problem is, the dance team gets many last-minute requests to go to events and perform on behalf of the school. This doesn’t always leave them time to reserve the dance studio to rehearse.


"We have practiced in hallways and in racquetball courts," Snide says. "And if we can't get

space inside, we go outside, onto the field."


“One night we were out there [on the field],” Ehrlich says, “And all of a sudden they shut the

lights [off] on us and we were like, ‘Oh I guess we’re kicked out. 8 o’clock, right on the dot.’

We couldn’t even go one minute over.”


If you look up the UAlbany Dance Team online, you won’t find any press releases or articles

written about their 2019 Nationals placement.


The dance team is also not included on the drop down of sports teams on the Athletics web

page. When asked why, UAlbany Athletics declined to comment.


“There’s this stigma that dancing is just this fairy ballerina thing,” Snide says.


“I feel like [Athletics] looks down on us,” Ehrlich says. “We’re still there putting in hard

work. We’re under athletics. We practice a bunch of days per week. We’re at every sporting

event and game that they ask us to be at, even the extra events where there’s no game being

played. We still go to those.”


The team emphasized that they love going to games, supporting the teams, and performing for UAlbany fans.


“We’re not asking for much,” Snide says. “You know, we aren’t expecting to get everything

that the football, basketball, and track teams get. We just want to know that they know we’re

here.”


Captain Molly O'Shea teaches the team a new dance move. (Bailey Cummings / ASP)

The Budget


The Dance Team fundraises and pays out of pocket for their own competition uniforms,

choreographers, plane tickets to nationals, and other expenses so that they can compete each year.


According to UAlbany Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations Pete Iorizzo, “The

[cheer and dance] squads share an operating budget of $10,000. The teams supplement that

budget with additional fundraising.”


When asked by the Albany Student Press, none of the dancers knew what their budget was or

where exactly their money was spent, just that money is owed every few months to their coach.


Near Future


The UAlbany dance team will return to Nationals this spring, most likely in more home-made

costumes and traveling on their own dime. They will fundraise to cover the roughly $1,000 each dancer needs to compete.


“It’s the choice that we make because we love to dance so much,” Ehrlich says. “We like

going and working toward something.”


“Last year we went to Daytona and we blew them out of the water,” Snide says. “We came

out of nowhere.”


The team plans to do that again.


When asked if winning first place would gain the respect of Athletics, all three captains said:


“No.”


“We made history last year,” O’Shea says. She shrugs her shoulders. “And nobody cared.”


If you want to learn more about the UAlbany dance team, you can find them on Instagram

@UAlbanyDanceTeam.


You cannot look them up on the UAlbany Athletics webpage; they are not listed.