The West Virginia University Dance Team returned from Daytona, Fl. with their second consecutive championship title from the National Dance Alliance Collegiate Championship 2011.

The team competed against more than 250 competing cheer and dance teams from universities including Western Michigan University, Florida State University, University of Louisville, University of Connecticut, Clemson University and Texas Christian University in the Open Dance 1A division. They placed first at the preliminary competition with 9.863 out of 10 possible points, with Western Michigan following in second place with a 9.656 score.

WVU brought the title home with a 9.934 point score at the final competition, which was the highest score out of the entire competition in both the preliminary and final rounds, said Erin Harold, the team’s coach.

“The judges said that we were refreshing and like a breath of fresh air, and two of the judges said that our dance moved them to tears,” Harold said. “Another judge said that she loved what we were doing and to never stop. We also got perfect tens from all of the judges in the areas of performance, impression, choreography and collegiate image.”

The dance was set to the song “Unchained Melody,” a cover by David Phelps, and choreographed by Shannon Nichols, an alumna of the Towson University Dance Team that holds over 12 championship wins. Nichols has choreographed the routines for all four years of competition that WVU has participated.

The team learned the routine in early January, practiced approximately 11 hours a week, and stayed in Morgantown over spring break to practice for seven hours a day.

Dance practice was not the only hard work put into this competition, Harold said.

“We put lots of hours into sewing and rhinestoning costumes,” Harold said. “A group of us rhinestoned the costumes with more than 400 rhinestones per costume, and we made our own hair pieces. We also had to sew on the Velcro on the sashes so that no one could tell that they’d be coming off to be used as a prop in the middle of the dance.”

The team also had to fundraise their way to the competition, Harold said.

“The total cost of competition is about $18,000, and we received a gold bid that paid for about $10,000 of it,” Harold said. “We also got a grant from the Student Government Association, sold t-shirts, received some funding from club sports and paid some costs out of pocket to make up for the rest of the $8,000.”

Kitt Bandi, senior dance team member who has competed all four years, says that WVU is now a recognized name in Daytona during competition weekend, and winning back to back is a feeling she can’t put into words.

“It makes us realize as a team that everything we’ve worked for has paid off, and we really feel like champions,” Bandi said. “Being able to represent not only the University but the entire state is the best feeling in the world, and people know who we are and talk about how inspiring it is to watch us. Knowing that people from other universities look forward to watching what we bring every year is an unbelievable feeling.”

Bandi says that hard work and commitment combined with the support of parents and fans got them where they are today.

“Each girl on this team wanted it so bad, and it takes a group like us and a great coach to make this experience successful,” Bandi said. “Along with that, we have the best fans, and it became a reality through the parents and donors that supported us throughout this entire process.”

Harold said that the team will compete in the same division next year, and the lessons she took from this year’s competition to apply to next year would be to “never doubt yourself, and always try to push yourself further than you think you can go.”

“I feel like the second time around was so much harder,” Harold said. “I know we felt a lot more pressure after winning last year, and all of the other teams knew we were the team to beat.”

To learn more about the WVU Dance Team, visit



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