Lafayette Dance selects new coach and prepares for first national competition – The Lafayette

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After a coaching shuffle that brought in Melissa Diehl as the new head coach, the Lafayette dance team is gearing up for their first-ever national competition in January.

In previous years, Billie Weiss coached the dance and cheerleading teams. However, Weiss recently left the dance team and will only work happily.

“In our most hectic part of the season, where we are preparing for the competition, our former supervisor said that although she will see us until the end of the competition, she is resigning as supervisor,” said the senior team captain Steph Davidson. “We were all blindsided by this.”

Davidson said the team used his connections to find Diehl as a new coach.

Diehl has been a dance teacher and choreographer for over 10 years. She started dancing at the age of five at a local dance studio in Hellertown, Pennsylvania, taking lessons in ballet, jazz, tap and contemporary dance. She then joined the studio’s competition team and competed throughout high school.

At Penn State, she graduated with a minor in dance. As captain in 2012 and 2013, she led the Lionette Dance Team to its first two national championships in school history.

Although much of the responsibility still falls on the team captains as Diehl transitions into her new role as head coach, Davidson said receiving feedback from her on their performances has been helpful.

“She’s fiery, she’s fierce, she wants to win. And it’s really nice to have a qualified authority figure in the room to lead us, someone who led his team to win their very first competition and just someone who’s had that experience before. She knows all the ins and outs, and she really is a great resource,” Davidson said.

Diehl wrote in an email that when she met the captains and learned more about what the team was looking for in a coach, she knew Lafayette was a place where she could make an impact and find a home to long term.

“They are an amazing group of young women, and I already feel so welcome,” she wrote in an email.

Regarding the upcoming competition, Davidson explained that the team was supposed to have a “prep year” for the competition in its second year, but COVID-19 disrupted those plans. Instead, the team will fully embark on this season, starting with a UDA (Universal Dance Competition) camp for their pre-season. The competition will take place in Orlando and the team will compete in pom and hip-hop in the Division I category.

“We’re competing against the best dancers in the country,” Davidson said.

With the competition coming up, the team has amped up their weekly training schedule. They practice Monday, Tuesday and Thursday before having a competition on Saturday and a four-hour practice on Sunday.

” We are always together. When you’re not in class, you’re in the studio practicing,” Davidson said. “The team has never been so close before.”

“The team must fight together to win together,” Diehl wrote. “Spending time outside of practice to learn more about your teammates and understand what really motivates them will translate into the studio when it’s time to fight for a common goal!”

The team also listing pictures on GoLeopards for the first time, something the members say shows their dedication to their sport.

“I think it’s time people started to see that dancing is more than just cheering on the other teams on the sidelines. It’s not just a physical thing, but it’s also a mental game. I just don’t think people understand the extent to which we practice, especially now that we’re revamping the entire program,” Davidson said. “I hope we get more recognition… Dancing despite chronic pain, chronic injuries, permanent injuries – there’s no choice but to dance.”

Davidson said having the goal of the competition in mind has pushed the team forward like never before.

“I have never seen a team, nor myself progress as much as [we have] this semester in particular,” she said.

The team is looking for donations to help them on their way to national championships. The link to donate can be found on their Instagram, @lafayettecollegedanceteam.

“Any donations, no matter the amount, would be greatly appreciated,” Davidson said.

“I can’t wait for Lafayette to see everything these young women accomplish this year as they compete in the UDA for the very first time and beyond,” Diehl wrote. “I cannot express my excitement enough to work alongside this team. It really is a dream come true!

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