Ray Floriani (pictured, center) of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC Conferences. A dilettante of the highest order, he attended the Coaches vs. Cancer final rounds in New York last week.
*(ed. note: Ray wrote in to say that Jamie is the redhead on the far left – no, not the Bruin)
NEW YORK CITY – Part of the excitement and ambience of college basketball involves the fans. As in fanatic, passionate and devoted. Largely associated with them is the spirit groups, cheerleaders, dance teams, etc.
Coaches vs. Cancer last week in New York afforded the opportunity to meet with the UCLA Dance Team, the only team in town. “We appear at weddings, civic events and charity events,” coach Molly Vehling said. “But our most important job is cheering for our teams. We cheer at football and basketball games and it makes me proud that we traveled the farthest and have the only (spirit) group here.”
Those chosen for teams as UCLA dancers go through tryouts. After being selected comes weekly practices punctuated by conditioning. The ladies on the dance teams, at UCLA and other schools, are athletes in their own right.
To a member, this was the first trip to Madison Square Garden for the team. They took in the obligatory sights from Central Park, Fifth Avenue to Ground Zero. Getting on the Garden floor brought added meaning to their performance.
“This (MSG) is a great place to cheer,” said Jamie, a senior. “I’ve cheered in the Staples Center which is similar but here there is so much history.” Jamie used the trip as a test. She’s a microbiology major hoping to go to law school. She’s looking at NYU Law so her first trip to the Big Apple had added significance. Her impression? “New York is a great city, just a little chilly.” Understandable since the region was hit with unseasonably cold temperatures in the low thirties.
Her teammate Michelle summed up the experience, ”this (Madison Square Garden and New York) is just an awesome place.”
After finishing the trip on a high note as the Bruins defeated Southern Illinois in the consolation game, the dance team was off to Broadway. What show, I asked? ‘The Rockettes,” they answered in unison. Makes sense one talented dance group seeing another.