By JAMIE NULL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
ATHENS — Before she came to Concord University, Eleanor Gandee, 20, was a ballerina with the Charleston Ballet Company. Katelyn Drake, 21, trained as a dancer in Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina and West Virginia. Rebekah Garcia, 18, learned to dance at the Beckley Dance Theatre School of Arts. Taylor Murphy danced for Janis Gunnoe at Princeton Dance Theater for 15 years. Kailee Schabele, 19, grew up in Delaware, and was a varsity cheerleader.
Each of them has a different background but they share something in common. All are members of the Concord University ELITE Dance Team.
Gandee, the captain, said this is the longest running dance team in the history of Concord. The five college students are hoping to make a lasting impression and earn respect from their fellow athletes, the crowd and their peers.
“This year, we are promoting the dance team more than ever before to reach out to people all over campus, including the Beckley campus students,” Gandee said. “Also, we are trying to participate in more school activities and community events because in the past we were only involved in a few school events. We are the ELITE dance team, which stands for Eloquent Leaders Inspiring to Everyone. This semester, we are living up to that name more than by adding more school spirit and support while remaining true to our eloquent and classy dance styles.”
Schabele said one priority is to make sure all dances are age appropriate. They also want to be role models for other young dancers in the area.
“Being a dancer in college is a great way to show young dancers that what they are doing is worthwhile. We can exemplify what they are working to become. We are planning to do campus camps with young dancers as a fundraiser to share the passion with little ones,” Drake added.
Gandee said dancing doesn’t have to end in high school.
“I did not think I would ever dance again after high school because I was not going to college for dance, but then I came to Concord and found a new team of dancers that have brought my strong love for dance back into my life ...,” she said.
They are different from cheerleaders, Garcia said.
“We perform at events to get people excited for the event and see what dance is all about. And the crowd loves the music,” she said.
The ELITE dance team performs at basketball and football games, the International Banquet and Race for the Cure. They practice three days a week.
Taylor Murphy said the crowd is what drives them to perform.
“When the music started people recognized the song and started smiling. After our performance, people would come up to us and congratulate us on how good we did and on our improvement. They said it didn’t matter if there was only five of us because the five of us did so well,” Murphy said.
This semester, they have performed two songs at CU events.
“... Those two dances had a lot of effort place into them to make sure they were perfected and ready to inspire the audience. These dancers were to the song ‘Timber’ by K$sha, which is my favorite, and a mix of the songs from the movie “Burlesque” with songs by Cher and Christina Aguilera,” Gandee said.
One thing all the women want is respect.
“We work hard to make our dances presentable to audiences of all ages. We also give girls a second chance when they tryout, if she seems nervous the first time she does the dance, we tell her what to watch out for and then allow her to do it again,” Murphy said.
Drake believes it is important for a school to have a dance team, even a smaller campus like Concord. She said it easier to get the timing right on the dances with a small group, but they need more members to help with choreography and to help support each other.
“There isn’t a coach. It’s an organization so we have positions and we have an advisor. It’s definitely a lot harder not having someone help and critique us. But it’s all student led,” Drake said.
More members would deliver bigger performances and gain respect on campus.
“I have high hopes for the CU ELITE dance team,” Gandee said. “I hope to watch it grow in members, expand into the community and other school events, and gain more respect for everyone for our talents and efforts that is required within our organization.”
They all agree they are doing what they love in college.
“I didn’t realize how much I missed dancing until I started this. I am constantly planning songs and picturing choreography in my head and looking up costumes. I have only been a part of this dance team family for a few weeks, and it has already become a big part of my life. I am hoping we will prove ourselves worthy of the respect of our peers and share the love and beauty of dance with out school,” Drake said.