The Diamond Gems conclude a season that included a trip to a national competition.
A unified “aww” resounded throughout an empty McGonigle Hall as members of the Diamond Gems dance team realized it would be one of their last times together as the 2010-2011 squad.
The team had just finished leading the College Prep Dance Clinic, a day-long dance boot camp spearheaded by the Gems to fill potential high school and college-level dancers in on the parts of college dance team “coaches just won’t tell you,” senior Katie Bertolet said.
“I’d rather expose future ‘auditioners’ to us now rather than have them be shocked on the first day of auditions,” said coach Megan Teesdale, who has been guiding the Gems since August 2009. “Dance team just isn’t as big in the Northeast as it is elsewhere.”
But as the Gems return from the 2011 Universal Dance Association College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship in Orlando, Fla., with a Top 5 finish for the second year in a row, the team is making a name for itself on Main Campus, senior co-captain Lacie McGowan said.
Though the Gems taught the crowd of approximately 40 dancers a hip-hop routine – the team’s specialty – they switched it up for Nationals and placed with the team’s first-ever pom routine.
“[Coach] came in this year with a new flavor,” McGowan said. “She pushed us to try something new. We’re generally a hip-hop team – that’s all we’ve done before.”
“It was really technical,” senior captain Stepfanie McCaffrey added. “We would practice eight or nine hours a day, with bruises all over our bodies at the end.”
The routine, which was a mash-up of “social dance” songs such as “The Electric Slide” and Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5,” earned the team fourth place in the Division I pom category and seventh in the Division I hip-hop category.
“It was really just funky,” senior Erin Johnson said.
Teesdale said she was especially proud of the Gems since they competed against teams that have been competing with pom routines for at least 15 years.
“[Dance] is a sport that doesn’t have an off season, but dance is always evolving,” Teesdale said. “These girls have to balance their schedules while being on top of the trends.”
But the girls have also been working hard off of the dance floor.
To pay for the trip to Nationals in 2010, each Gem paid $500 out-of-pocket. This year, the dancers were quick to announce how much they paid: “zero,” the team said in unison.
This year, the team raised “every dollar” to pay for all of the team’s flights, hotels, registration and other fees, Teesdale said.
In addition to donations from team alumni and fans, the Gems raised money by working at concession stands at Eagles games.
“We had to be there for four hours before the game and two hours after the game,” McCaffrey said. “But we made it fun, and we even danced and did sideline [routines] for tips.”
As Teesdale gears up for Diamond Gems tryouts on April 16-17, the team said it’s “still too focused on this past year” to think ahead but are proud this year’s team has garnered local and national recognition and attention.
“We were doing things some of us have never done before,” McGowan said. “We worked really hard and showed everyone we’re not just the girls with the pom-poms anymore.”
Maria Zankey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: Like the Temple Cheerleaders, the Diamond Gems dance team is housed under the umbrella of the Athletics Department. Each girl receives a stipend. In addition, the team is allocated dollars from the Athletics budget to fund various initiatives. It is at the discretion of the coach as to how the funds are utilized.