Worcester State Dance Team crowned 7th in the nation in hip hop

January 22, 2024
By: Mallory Dupuis

The Worcester State University Dance Team made program history January 14 winning 7th in the nation among Division II and III schools for Open Hip Hop at the Universal Dance Association’s national competition. This was the team’s first time making it to the finals at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida, after making it to the semifinals in 2023. 

“I was kind of hounding them on making finals only because we’ve been so close the years past and I’ve seen how hard they’ve worked,” said head coach Lexi Nevalsky. “That’s what you should be working for, it should be your number one goal. It’s just unbelievable how far they’ve come.”

The Dance Team’s winning performance at UDA was set to a mashup of Missy Elliot songs.

Right after performing at the semifinals on Saturday, Jan. 13, the team found out that they were moving on to the finals the next day. With such short notice, the group held one more practice to make minor tweaks to their performance based on the judge’s feedback. 

Team members say they took the UDA final stage full of confidence and excitement, performing a mashup of four Missy Elliott songs, ultimately leading them to their first national ranking in program history. “Her style of music is fun. It’s got that nineties flair, which is something that we excel in. So that was our vision and our view,” Nevalsky said. 

Dressed in black, the team’s fast-paced performance incorporated the team’s hip hop skills as well as innovative and challenging choreography. Headsprings and team tricks are a huge part of the competitions scoresheet, Nevalsky said, and this pushed the team to new heights and allowed them to be bigger and better. This routine also showcased the team’s ability to perform and truly engage the audience.  See the team’s winning performance on their Facebook page.

Before their finals performance, senior Chloe McGrievey gave one last piece of advice to the team: “Just go out there and have fun.” McGrievey attributes their success, in part, to the bonds of friendship they have built and their shared goal to get to nationals. Team chemistry, the dancers agree, played a pivotal role in the program’s success this season.

“We focused a lot on team bonding and our goal was finaling, but our goal was to also just support each other, push each other to do the best we can,” senior captain Kristen Lally said.

The Worcester State Dance Team at the Universal Dance Association’s national competition, held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida. (Photo courtesy of Dance Team)

The deep-rooted bonds among the team members also comes from Nevalsky, who is an alumna of the team. Nevalsky took over as head coach in 2020, just months after graduating from Worcester State and being a two-year member of the dance team. She says that it was the team’s hard work and dedication that got them to this point. They practiced three times a week for three hours, and prepared for this moment since August. In the week leading up to nationals, they did two practices a day, each four hours long. 

“I think it all started with last year at nationals being so close to that final stage it kind of lit a fire under us. And so from the start of the season, I could just tell that these girls were different. They had the right mindset, they were ready to work hard, they came to practice ready, prepared,” Nevalsky explained. 

The season was not without challenges though, as Nevalsky had to step away for two weeks. In her absence, the team was led by Lally. Sophomore and second year member, Abigail Saner, said she thinks this helped the team grow closer. “It was a little different without Lexi there, but it definitely helped us build up more as a team,” Saner said.

Their mindset from the beginning of the season was finals, making sure they never lost sight of that goal no matter the circumstances. The hard work and perseverance paid off, and it means everything to this group. McGrievey referred to the moment as indescribable, especially as a senior. 

“It’s indescribable, but also I think it’s really cool as seniors, we were freshmen when Lexi joined, so getting the full experience from the start with her and just seeing how far we have come as a team and her as a coach makes it even more special.”

Nevalsky agrees, saying, “Oh, it means everything. Just being an alum of this team is a great feeling in itself. But knowing that when I was on the team, we were also very close to finals and not being able to experience that for myself, but now being able to experience it with them, it just makes me feel so proud.”

The winning team, Nevalsky said, is “hardworking and determined, but they’re also silly. They’re hilarious girls. I look at them like all my little sisters. They’re just great people, great individuals both in the dance studio and with their worth ethic in school because I know they’re all juggling a lot.”

Nevalsky has also set another goal, which is to get the Worcester State Dance Team recognized as an official athletic sport on campus. Classified as a club at the moment, Nevalsky says they deserve recognition for putting in the same amount of effort and determination as other sports on campus. 

With the 2024 nationals season concluding on such a high, the group is looking ahead to next year where they believe they can achieve even higher. Saner is confident, saying that she believes since they already made it once, they can certainly do it all again. 

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