The Occidental cheer team showcased their new, more dance-based style at the halftime performance for the football Homecoming game on Saturday.
According to the squad’s co-captain Janel Booker (senior), the change in style is largely due to their recent change in leadership. The team lost coach Brittlin Yamaguchi at the end of last year and replaced her with Ricah Rejano ‘14.
“I’ve never cheered before,” Rejano, who was co-president of Dance Production her senior years, said. “I’m not a cheerleader, I’m a dancer. So that’s the reason why it’s more dance-based, because I was involved with dance my whole Oxy career.”
So far, the team has been impressed by their new coach, especially considering her inexperience with cheer.
“Ricah knows more hip-hop, so it was kind of a challenge for her to put that into cheer,” Booker said. “But we ended up with this great hip-hop and cheer fusion.”
According to Booker, the combination of cheer and hip-hop styles makes the cheer team unique. No other group at Occidental performs cheer routines, and the team’s integration of hip-hop into their regular cheer jumps and stunts sets them apart from the other teams on campus. So far, the team seems to be in agreement that the change in leadership has benefited them.
“Bringing [Rejano’s] style into cheer adds a whole new dynamic,” co-captain and treasurer Raven Campbell (sophomore) said. “It’s so much fun to feed off her energy … [Rejano] definitely pushes us past our comfort zone. It’s really great.”
Although cheer is a club sport with only nine members, the team practices for two hours a day, Monday through Thursday, and occasionally on Friday. The team also has run-throughs of its performances every Saturday. It performs at all home football and basketball games, as well as other sporting events upon request.The team also records every performance to identify areas for improvement.
“I’m used to working on one dance for a whole year, but [the cheer team] does one dance in about two weeks,” Rejano said.
Rejano is excited for what cheer will contribute to the upcoming winter season.
“It will be lots of new, fun types of music,” Rejano said. “It’s not going to be the cheer team that you saw last year and the year before. They’re just going to keep getting better and better.”
While cheer decided to ditch the pom-poms for their halftime show, the Occidental Dance team brought them out for their routine. The dance was choreographed by co-captain Morgan Carnes (senior) to “Can’t Turn You Loose” by Aretha Franklin.
For the first time in recent years, the dance team is now completely student-led, headed by co-captains Carnes, Elena Lopez (junior), and Sophia Rubenstein (junior), who is currently abroad. According to Carnes and Lopez, the transition has been very successful.
“It’s getting everybody on the team to step up to a leadership position,” Carnes said. “It gives the opportunity for even underclassmen, who have only been on the team a few months, to step up and practice and be a leader.”
A small team of just nine members, the dance team performs at all home basketball and football games, as well as some soccer and lacrosse games. It also performs at various events around campus, such as the involvement fair, Up ‘til Dawn and Relay for Life.
The team focuses mainly on jazz, pom and hip hop forms of dance.
“We like to do mostly jazz and pom for football games, because it’s the most crowd pleasing, and then hip-hop for more quad-performance type things,” Lopez said.
Although the dance team does not have a coach, the captains bring in outside choreographers to help them with their performances. Christopher Monteith ‘13 and Chelsea Duncan ‘12, who was the team’s coach last year, frequently help choreograph the team’s dances.
“Dance team has evolved over the years that I’ve been involved with it,” Duncan said. “It has grown to be a team of talented dancers that are able to come together around a common love of dance and bring spirit to the Oxy community.”
The dance team is the only dance group on campus that competes. Each year they put together routines for Universal Dance Association’s regional and national competitions. The regional competition will take place at the end of the semester, and the national competition will be held in Orlando, Fla. from Jan. 31-Feb. 1.
The team raises their own funds to hire outside photographers, pay for costumes and music and cover the necessary fees to send the team to the competitions in the spring. The team’s two fundraising leaders, Maya Herzig (senior) and Jenny Craig (senior), put together events such as an annual car wash, midnight doughnut fundraiser and tank top sale, to meet the team’s competition costs.
“Fundraising is extremely important for our team, so any money that the students of Oxy donate through our fundraisers is really appreciated,” Craig said.