From the outside looking in, dance is an art, a sport and a performance for a crowd.
For the Minnesota State Maverick dance team, it’s also a passion that creates a family-like bond that drives them to championship success.
Every year the MSU dance team travels to the ESPN World of Sports in Orlando to compete for the College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championships. This year, alum head coach Madison Hebrink led the team to two first-place titles in her inaugural season. One was in the Open Pom category, which was a mashup of popular songs that featured artists such as Beyonce, Pitbull and the Black Eyed Peas. The other was in Open Jazz where they used a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.”
After the award ceremony, Disney World opened its doors to all dancers and cheerleaders who participated in the National Championships. The teams were able to enjoy their night at Disney and then the next day the MSU dance team went and explored other parks in Orlando before heading home.
With the two first-place finishes, the team now has eight championships under its belt.
The team has to balance their season with practice, competitions, football games and prep clinics to help the youth. They also do five workouts each week throughout the summer.
Although they have so many different priorities, captain Brooklin Nothdurft says about 95% of their focus is on their routines for nationals.
“The beginning of the season is a lot of football games and practices for the halftime routines,” Hebrink said. “Once November hits we start our prep for nationals. We do two practices a day in December up until we leave for nationals. It is normally about seven hours of practice every day.”
During the long days of practice, the team uses the time to bond. Their main goal every year is to be a family. This family-like culture sets them apart and creates success.
“I feel like our biggest goal is always to be a family, this pays off on the floor because you can just tell that all of us love each other when we dance together,” captain Salma Masood said.
The team spends most of their time together on and off the dance floor.
“We are all with each other all the time,” Nothdurft said. “I mean all the time. We hang out at practice and a lot of us even live together. We’re just a really close group of friends and teammates.”
While their love for dance is the driving force for their friendship, they also share another bond; they want to be recognized as an athletic team on campus.
Since they are considered a club, they have to pay a $2,000 fee to be a part of the team, they also have to pay $250 each semester. The team does not get any scholarship money or help when traveling to competitions. The team also does prep clinics under the Maverick name where young dancers from all over Minnesota and other states come to Mankato to learn from the team.
One thing they do get is the ability to use the athlete’s gym.
“I think we do a lot for the program and we don’t see much compensation,” Nothdurft said. “We feel in a way we are marketing for the school down at nationals. People come here for the dance program.”
One way the team strives to gain more recognition is by performing at Maverick football and basketball games.
“We want to prove that we are more than just a game-day performance,” Hebrink said. “It’s hard because the girls work so hard, just as hard as any other program here. We are bringing home championships and I hope they get the recognition they deserve. Not everyone can do what they do.”
Masood agreed saying, “There’s nothing like being on a dance team. I don’t think people realize how hard it is because of how effortless and pretty we make it seem on the floor. It is so hard, physically and mentally.”
The team consensus, however, is that it’s all worth it. Their love for the sport supersedes frustrations. The bond they create and the growth they achieve keeps them coming back.
“A lot of our team does it for the bond of each other and the lifelong friendships. It’s not just for the dancing itself, but it’s for the team aspect,” Nothdurft said.
Coach Hebrink said, “Dance is important because we don’t just teach dance lessons but life lessons. I try to instill in them how to become not just a better dancer but also a better person.”
Header Photo: The Maverick dance team holds their two trophies in front of the ESPN World of Sports sign in Orlando, Florida. (Maverick Dance Team)
Write to Luke Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org