Dancing To Nationals

January 11, 2016

SJC Dance Team

SJC Long Island's Dance Team heads to Florida to participate in national competition.

For some of us (present company included) dancing is a part of life. To compete at a high level takes years of practice. Dancing is intense and rigorous, and demands detail most sports only require for a fleeting moment: a corner kick, an out route, a pick and roll. For the SJC Dance Team, a two-minute routine has to be flawless to even be considered competitive. That's what makes the team's participation at the 2016 Florida Nationals that impressive.

If you ask SJC coaches and former captains Jessica Desz '13 and Lauren Vegessi '15, the Dance Team is embedded in their lives, just as it is with the 13 team members they oversee. Both Child Study graduates, Jessica is currently a teaching assistant at Sachem School District, and Lauren works as a substitute teacher — that's in addition to the obligations as coaches and dance instructors (Jessica teaches dance to Sachem middle school students, while Lauren teaches at her studio).

Both coaches agree, this year's SJC squad is special. The bar has risen higher and higher over the years, and the team has risen along with it, which means Jessica and Lauren can sense the finals of Nationals within grasp — a placement they've never earned before.

"From when we were both freshmen on the Dance Team, it's a totally different world," Jessica said. "Our biggest goal this year is to make it to finals; we haven't been to finals yet. Our Jazz category has 27 teams we have to compete against, and 14 make it to finals. Our Hip-Hop category has 18 teams, with 9 reaching the finals."

While it won't be the first time the squad reached Nationals (the team headed to Nationals several times in the last five years), attaining a place in the final group has never been accomplished. The teams SJC will be competing against come from across the country, and in higher divisions than their D-III designation.

"The competition is broken into D-I/D-IA and then everyone else — D-II and D-III — is open," Lauren said. "We'll be competing against D-II and other D-III schools."

SJC Long Island Dance Team

The 2016 SJC Long Island Dance Team: seniors Alexa Casamassino (Captain), Shanna Malwitz and Amanda Rose; juniors Bryanna Stone, Brielle Colello and Larissa Hoefler; sophomores Kailey Albano, Lindsay Lippolt, Geena Brooks and Courtney Flynn; freshmen Danielle Monteverde, Taylor Groeger and Tiffany Luu; head coach Jessica Desz, assistant coach Lauren Vegessi.

What makes the coaches so confident in 2016? Last fall, a core group of existing dance members was supplemented by three freshmen who have cemented the group as a core unit — not only technically speaking, but in passion and intensity. Even with new blood entering the squad, the team has gelled instantly. For Long Island dancers exposed to a limited number of studios, the reality is many of the girls have danced together beforehand, but being a team at SJC means something special.

"We're like a family," Jessica said. "We become best friends. We spend all of our time together."

"We're not going there expecting to win the whole thing. The talent has just grown so much — our goal is to make it to finals, because we've never been there before, and we're going to represent SJC, so that's an accomplishment for all of us." 

"I feel like this is the first year we are limitless.  We aren't holding anything back and going above and beyond.  I couldn't be prouder to be dancing with these girls, who are now my sisters, for my senior year."
— Captain Alexa Casamassino '16

Join the SJC Long Island Dance Team for a celebratory send-off on Wednesday, January 13, at 7:30 p.m. in the Danzi Athletic Center gymnasium. And don't forget to follow the team on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) for the latest updates from the Florida Nationals.