The Rider Dance Team returns to the court

By Tristan Leach

Running onto the court in cranberry and black, the team takes their positions. The music starts and the crowd cheers. The Rider Dance Team is about to begin its halftime performance.

The team is best known for their performances at the men’s and women’s basketball games but also at other events including Awareness Day. They are a beloved part of the Rider community, with friends and family members attending events to watch the team dance.

It has been over a year since the team has performed for a crowd. The team was at the MAAC Tournament with Rider’s basketball teams when COVID-19 shut down the competition in 2020.

McKenzie Jones is a junior criminal justice major and vice president of the dance team.

Jones said, “Unfortunately, I lost most of my time because that’s when COVID did hit. Right at the end of our season and going to the MAAC Tournament. We did do dance team on Zoom though.”

However, The Rider Dance Team has made a triumphant return, picking up where they left off. Almost two years later on March 8, the team is returning to the place where the world was turned upside down
— the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Tournament. The team hopes that their performances will uplift all in attendance and be seen as a welcome back to normalcy.

“I think that we’re a source of entertainment,” said Jones. “It’s like the game is hype, whether we are winning or losing, once the dance team comes out it should bring a source of energy, of excitement. We’re definitely a source of entertainment to liven up the place.”

And liven up they did. On Feb. 26 at the women’s basketball game, the team performed for a large crowd of students, staff and guests. This game was centered around National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

Before performing, the team met with girls ages five to 17. The goal of this event was to encourage young girls to get involved in sports.

Marissa Stellato, a sophomore dance performance major, said ,“I’ve never been a part of a team before. A lot of dancers here are competition dancers, and I never did that. I was just a recreational dancer, and I wanted to try something new. I thought it would be a good experience, and it is.”

However, there are still goals that the team wishes to achieve, such as performing at other venues and becoming a part of Rider athletics. The Rider Dance Team is not officially recognized as a part of athletics at Rider, but the team has pushed and continues to push for its recognition.

“I would like to see dance team grow as a true athletic. I think we are a part of a club sport on Rider’s campus. I think we should be taken as seriously as an athletic, which cheer is taken as. We practice just as hard, just as long. I would like to see dance team be taken a little more seriously,” said Jones.

Stellato hopes that the team will be able to expand outside of Rider such as going to competitions just like the cheer team. “I can totally see us expanding outside of Rider, going to Universal Dance Association and dancing for the 76ers,” said Stellato.

While the season is winding down, the team is preparing to follow the men’s and women’s basketball teams to the MAAC Tournament. As always, they are ready to perform their hearts out and represent Rider.

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