They had each gone through it over and over again in the hundreds of hours spent rehearsing. Every beat and every step was memorized and programmed into their minds and bodies. Yet their hearts were pounding, their breath was quick, and beads of sweat dotted their foreheads. The members of the Michigan Dance Team were huddled up backstage, keeping loose and supporting each other in every way possible. They awaited their turn in the UDA College Cheer and Dance National Championship in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 15.

“This is the year that we are dancing from our hearts and dancing how we want to dance,” senior co-captain Katie Russell said to the team as they waited.

When “The Victors” began to blast out of the arena’s speakers, signifying their turn to perform, it was time for the team to bring down the house.

Up on stage, the worries of rankings and numbers simply evaporated into the heat of the lights. The dancers were there to prove that the years of undying devotion to their passion had empowered them to improve as individuals and as a team. They were there to embody Michigan spirit and pride. But most of all, they were there for each other. In the middle of the performance, with their bodies in elegant and perfectly in-sync motion, Russell shouted, “I love you guys!” This love was shared by every member of the team, along with coach Valerie Stead Potsos.

The Michigan Dancers placed 10th, finishing above 140 of the 150 teams competing, most varsity level.

Senior dancer Rebecca O’Brien had no regrets.

“We danced the best we could dance and (wanted) to give the program a good name,” O’Brien said.

In all, the National Championship competition pushed each member to smash personal and team goals and to showcase the class and professionalism of the Michigan program.

“We cried tons of happy tears,” Russell said.

The dancers are still red-hot. Stead Potsos has been taking innovative steps to ensure that the team remains on the cutting edge, and the dancers have been putting in hours of hard work to stay on top. They perform at every men’s home basketball game and will be performing their award-winning halftime show when the Wolverines take on Michigan State at Crisler Arena on Feb. 12.


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