Dance and Cheer Teams prepare for annual Homecoming half-time performances

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Photo courtesy of Charger Bulletin/Charlotte Bassett.

The New Haven dance team performs during halftime against Pace, West Haven, Oct. 8, 2022.

Saige Batza, Arts & Life Editor

Over the last several weeks, the university Dance and Cheer teams have been rigorously training for their annual show-stopping half-time performances during the upcoming Homecoming games, scheduled for Nov. 5.

Taliyah Johnson, a junior criminal justice major and dance team member, said that she is ecstatic to perform at this year’s halftime show, highlighting how the team’s dynamic has changed since she first joined the organization. She said, “We’ve had many ups and downs, but our team has continued to persevere. The hard work that the team has been putting in has allowed us to take part in the National Dance Association (NDA) camp, where we had instructors come in and teach us this really amazing yet hard dance, which pushed some of us past our comfort zone.”

Johnson emphasized that the team put “[our] blood, sweat and tears into learning this dance in only one day. This in turn created a team I’ve never seen before. This opportunity allowed growth for us as a whole, and I’m excited to see what else is in store for us.”

Ashley Florianti, a junior forensic psychology major and trick liaison, said that she is looking forward to the team’s Homecoming performance but wants to keep the details a surprise. “We have something really big planned for homecoming that will definitely surprise everyone in the stands! I want to be left as a surprise, but I can say that our choreography was taught to us during our NDA camp.”

Florianti believes the dance team represents Charger pride at the university. She said, “In my opinion, I feel the team represents Charger pride in pretty much everything we do. Anytime we are on campus wearing UNH or UNHDT uniforms we like to put our best foot forward with a smile and tons of energy to show how much we really love our school!”

Courtney Dias, a freshman interior design major and dance team member, said that she had a fantastic time during the NDA camp that took place recently. “It was a great experience, and the dance itself helped the team bond and build a better connection,” she said. “We have worked so hard on this, and I cannot wait to perform this dance during our homecoming football game.”

Dias joined the dance team as a freshman, and said that she has team captains and teammates to look to for support and guidance. She said, “I am aware that this year, with the excellent leadership of our coach, captains, and teammates, we will accomplish so much. We have a lot of dancers on the team which is excellent for us this year. We’ve done fundraisers and exceeded our goal; just getting involved more is a great improvement for us.”

Dias highlighted that the team “takes pride in supporting New Haven athletics and being representative of the university on and off campus.” She said, “It was a great decision to join the University of New Haven Dance Team. The girls quickly became like family, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”
Olivia Napolitano, a junior dental hygiene major, said that her favorite part of being on the dance team is “having the best relationships and endless support from the girls and coach no matter what!” She said, “I’ve loved dancing here at the university for the last three years and it has truly made my experience here so much better.”

Napolitano emphasized that the team represents charger pride and school spirit in a multitude of ways, saying, “we are always so involved on campus supporting athletic teams which is so much fun and it’s been such a great experience.”

In addition, the university’s cheer team has also dedicated much of their free time to preparing for the Homecoming games next month.

Madeleine Gray, a junior forensic science major and cheer team member, encourages students who are interested in trying out for the team to “shake the nerves.” She said, “Come tryout whether you have experience or not, we’re all here to learn together!”

Gray said that, in her opinion, the cheer team stands out from other organizations on campus because of “the drive of each athlete in the program and the drive the team has to get better and achieve [our] goals as one.”

She said, “We always make sure we are available for moments where cheering is needed for events like new student orientation and pep rallies, etc. Wherever a welcoming environment needs to be created, cheerleading is on it.”

Gray highlighted her favorite aspect of the team’s Charger pride and school spirit: the university’s fight song. She said, “We work with the marching band to bring Charger pride into an already spirited environment and increase the Charger pride for Homecoming. We know it will be a good game along with senior night.”

Madisyn DiNello, a senior forensic psychology major, cheer captain and side base, said that the cheer team stands apart from other organizations on campus by “requiring a certain bond that other teams don’t have.” She said, “To do what we do, it takes a huge amount of trust and comfort with each other, as we are responsible for the safety of each other in our stunts. One person can affect the safety of the entire team and so having and maintaining that bond is huge – it’s a big part of what makes our team so great!”

DiNello said that the team’s school spirit is evident in all that they do. “The Charger cheerleaders are the epitome of Charger pride. We’re such an active part of campus life, not only on campus but in the media too. We are at a lot of events hosted by the school, including pep rallies, games, accepted students day, and so much more,” she said. “We also have several members on the team who are actively involved in other organizations that help raise the school spirit!”

Jessica Armin, a sophomore forensic psychology major and cheer team member said that the team is “both conditioned mentally and physically,” which helps them stand apart from other performing organizations on campus. She said, “We literally throw people in the air and flyers have to be fearless; those on the ground are trusted to know what to do if or when something doesn’t go perfectly.”

Armin also encourages students to attend as many events and games as possible this year. She said, “We cheer for the football players, both basketball teams, and go to hosted events like the annual Trunk-or-Treat and Make a Wish events.”

Charlotte Nicefaro, a freshman criminal justice major and cheer team member, said that students looking to join the organization should bring a positive mindset. She said, “If you have the right attitude, you are willing to learn, [you should be] determined to get better not only as an athlete yourself but with the team as a whole.”

Nicefaro said that having senior day and Homecoming games occur on the same day have made the team excited about performing during the halftime show and cheering on the sidelines. She said, “We have plans to make this game as special for our seniors as possible. It is going to be a big game and we are very excited to be a part of it.”