The University of Michigan Dance Team – Driven To Succeed

The University of Michigan has an award winning dance program. They consistently place in the top 10 at the UDA College Dance Nationals. This team has an incredible reputation for good technique. CheerNN spoke with coach Valerie Stead Potsos and Dance Team Junior Captain Kristen Adamowski to get a feel for what dancing on the sidelines and representing such a prestigious university feels like.

CheerNN: Tell us a few facts about the Michigan Dance team.

3110_10151098379867740_452872040_nCoach Valerie Potsos:
2012 marks the first year The University of Michigan Dance Team has been considered a sport under the Athletic Department. Prior to that, we were considered a Club Sport and students paid club dues to participate. The team originated around 1980. I have been coaching for 12 years and we have been on the football field sidelines for 11 years. We perform on the sidelines of all home football and basketball games (mens’ and womens’) We travel to some football games as well as other events. We also perform at many events throughout campus. One of the fortunate benefits of being a part of athletics is that we have so much more support to achieve our goals.

CheerNN: Congratulations on making it to finals in the UDA College Nationals! Tell us about your264998_4319222934192_540381144_n performance!

Coach Valerie: Thank you! We were very pleased and thrilled to be a part of finals for Hip-Hop. We were the only Big 10 team in the finals for Hip-Hop Division IA. We missed Jazz finals by .7 of a point. Some things didn’t hit like they did in practice. That is what happens at this level. A small “bobble” can cost you points.

CheerNN: What are practices for UDA Nationals like for you?

Coach Valerie: We have been preparing for nationals since Aug. when our choreographers arrived. Our Nationals choreographers were Alvin Ramierez from Chicago, IL (Hip-Hop) and Kenndra Alverez (Jazz) from Cal State Fullerton. After that we spread out nationals practices during football season. Starting in mid-December, we practice everyday ranging from 4-7 hours each.

CheerNN: Where do you get the inspiration for your routines?

385332_4319219894116_1510030635_nCoach Valerie: We start talking about nationals in March of the previous season. We have an Exec Board of 6 team members. We discuss theme, content, skills, songs, beats. We will go through 200+ songs before we arrive at a decision.

CheerNN: How much experience does the average dancer on your team have before they try out for Michigan Dance?

Coach Valerie: Our students are studio trained and high school dance team trained. The best candidates are those who participated in both. Ballet is the basis of all dance and is essential.  Learning pom skills are important for our sideline routines. And, of course Hip-Hop as well. Certainly, our team members have strengths and weaknesses and each are more versed in certain styles. Most of our team members have been dancing since they were 3-4 years old. 

Cheer NN: At what type of events does your team perform?

Coach Valerie: Anything and everything on campus! Our role is support our school and to be public64970_10102203748327503_106782163_n

ambassadors for this university. In addition to all of the home basketball and football games, we also perform at select away football games, gymnastics meets, wrestling meets, swim meets, volleyball games, soccer games and philanthropic campus events.

CheerNN: What is it like to perform on the sideline, or on the field or court in front of thousands of Michigan fans?

Coach ValerieI always tell the team to NEVER take for granted walking out the tunnel into the stadium with 111,000 fans. It is a privilege, honor and an experience that they will cherish a lifetime.

Captain Kristen: Running out into the big house for pregame is an adrenaline rush like I’ve never felt before. Just hearing the crowd and feeling the energy in the stadium gets us excited. At the basketball games, we love to perform, but more importantly, we get to interact with fans more closely and it’s great to see people who love this university and our athletic teams as much as we do.

CheerNN: Your team went to a bowl game this year. What was that experience like? 

Coach Valerie: We were so incredibly grateful to represent The University of Michigan in the Outback Bowl.  Traveling to all of the different events from the Beach Party Pep Rally to the Parade to the game itself…..students on our team had tears in their eyes everywhere we went. 

Captain Kristen: The experience was unbelievable. Seeing so many Michigan fans so far away from home really showed us how lucky we are to be part of such a great athletic program. We got the opportunity to dance on the field in the buccaneers stadium and to dance at halftime. The whole experience is definitely my best college memory so far.

CheerNN: What advice would you give to a high school dancer who wants to try out for a college team?

67471_4434713554419_309203058_nCoach Valerie: Focus on ballet, hip-hop and jazz in your studio. Work on pom skills with your dance team. Understand what it means to be a “team.” Diva soloists do not fit well in our program. If anyone is interested in our program, it is important that we hear from the student, not the parents. We have amazing dance team parents and always appreciate all that they do. However, we want the “team interactions” to be handled by the student. After all, when they are in college, they are over 18 and are considered adults. Being on the dance team is what helps them make this transition from childhood to adulthood as young professionals.

CheerNN: Tell us one interesting fact about your team that makes them so special to you.

 Coach Valerie : Our rigorous academic schedule. I am so impressed that each year we have students who graduate in business, law, engineering and medicine while maintaining an extensive practice and performance schedule. This team is driven to succeed.


Captain Kristen: Our team is so self motivated. You can always count on at least one person on the team having a good attitude and it’s really contagious. We feed off of each others energy and it helps us all to manage our intense practice schedule, along with our challenging academic programs. We all just try to help each other improve in every aspect of our lives.

Do you know a program or coach like the University of Michigan Dance Team? Do you want to give them a spotlight to shine? Become A Cheer NN Reporter and tell us your story!  Special thanks coach Valerie Stead Potsos and Dance Team Junior Captain Kristen Adamowski and the entire Michigan Dance Team for the interview and insight into their amazing program.