What A Feeling

Towson Dance Team wins 16 straight championships.

danceTeam_longThis isn’t just a streak. This is a dynasty.

When the Towson University Dance Team won the 2014 National Dance Alliance (NDA) Collegiate National Championship in April, they brought home the title and a trophy for the 16th consecutive year.

To put the sheer number of championship wins in perspective, consider this. Rebecca Dorman, co-captain and a senior on the team, was a mere six years old when TU’s dance team won its first championship in 1999.

Dorman attributes the teams’ successes to a simple tenet—hard work. “No one works harder than we do,” says the family studies major.

This isn’t just lip service. The precision of each squad and each team’s ultimate success over the years comes from hours of practice—sometimes as many as eight hours of choreography work, drills, jumps and endurance exercises in a single day. “My friends are often shocked at how much time we put in as a team. They don’t understand the physical and mental toughness we need,” she explains.

Dorman herself never phones it in: not at practice, not during a performance, not even for an interview.

When asked to discuss this year’s competition, she insisted on a face-to-face meeting, walking over to a campus office between classes. And from the second she appeared, the room was awash in energy, enthusiasm and the sheer joy of being on a team coached by Tom Cascella.

“He’s a father figure to all of us, genuine and generous. He does so much for us. Everything we do is for him,” she says.

Cascella, assistant to the chair of Towson’s Department of Theatre Arts, took on the fledgling team in 1992, not long after his daughter Kim died.

Now Dorman says, he has “30 daughters every year.” And like a doting father, he guides, prods and insists that his kids excel—in more than just dance. “He makes us put school first,” she explains. “He develops our intensity, pushing us past our limits whether it’s dance, studies, a career or anything else in our lives.”

While a 16th championship is sweet, Cascella (center back) “makes us put school first,” says Rebecca Dorman, co-captain.

While a 16th championship is sweet, Cascella (center back) “makes us put school first,” says Rebecca Dorman, co-captain.

Dorman, who has danced in each national competition since she was a freshman, relied on that well-honed fervor
when Towson placed second after the preliminaries this year.

Since the streak began, every other Towson team—except the 2004 squad—had come out of the preliminaries in first place. This year Kansas was first and Towson had a target on their backs going into the finals.

The girls knew it. So did each one of their competitors. “The other teams were out to beat us,” Dorman says. “And no one wanted to be on the team that loses after all these years.”

The Towson dancers closed ranks. “We’re all sisters. We take care of each other,” Dorman notes. But it was Cascella’s calmness and his confidence in the girls that eased their fraying nerves.
“He told us, ‘You got this,’” Dorman says.

Besides, both coach and team know there are worse things to lose than a dance competition.

The team went back to what they do best—work. They refined their costumes and hip-hop routine. Five hours before the final—at 5 a.m.—the women were on the practice floor.

Then it was time to get up and dance. Dorman thought she and her teammates nailed their final performance. But would the judges think so?

The teams assembled in a semicircle on stage anxiously waiting for the awards. Kansas took third, Boston, second, and after what seemed like an eternity, the announcement came that Towson had once again earned the first place crown.

Cascella says, “The team spirit and cooperation of this group of young women makes them champions. I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of our team.”

Dorman understands his sentiment—a victory, while welcome, wasn’t essential. “We were all there for one thing,” Dorman explains, and it wasn’t to win a national championship. “We were there to be a better team than we were before, to become the best we can.”

The women on the 2014 team, and the 15 teams preceding them, achieved all that and more.

- Ginny Cook