From the Sidelines to the National Stage: The Rise of the Alabama Dance Team
A competitive squad of 24 of the nation’s top collegiate dancers, the Alabama Dance Team has made a name for itself on campus and on a national scale by representing female athletics and an appreciation for the arts. The team depicts a longstanding tradition at The University of Alabama, historically performing hip-hop and sideline routines during men’s and women’s basketball games, volleyball games and gymnastics meets. In recent years, the UA Dance Team greatly expanded its impact, performing on the sidelines of home football games since the 2019 season and making finals at three of the four last national competitions. In January, the squad made university history with its sixth place ranking in the jazz competition at the 2022 Universal Dance Association College Nationals.
What made the difference for this team that led them to explosive growth and university records over the past five seasons? Early morning intensive workouts and late-night practices to perfect routines and techniques are certainly contributing factors to the team’s success. However, fifth-season Head Coach Morgan Williams and senior Molly Barr weighed in about key moments and qualities that led to this history-making team. Embodying the team motto “whatever it takes,” the Alabama Dance Team took on a challenging journey to prove themselves as competitive athletes on a national platform.
“One of my main focuses when becoming the head coach five years ago was to make the program more competitive and add home football games, and we are blessed to have been able to accomplish those,” Williams said.
Barr expressed her gratitude for being a team member during these pivotal years, saying, “It’s huge that our team got a new coach who fought behind the scenes for our program, taking it in a new direction and pushing us to rank highly at nationals.”
After not placing in finals during the 2020 national competition and being unable to compete in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team returned to the 2022 competition with aspirations to prove its abilities.
“It was frustrating knowing that we have so much talent on our team, and we weren’t able to place and show the world what we can do,” Barr said. “After a limiting season because of COVID-19, we were even hungrier to be able to return in 2022, knowing this was our last shot as seniors to make history for this team.”
Williams echoed Barr’s enthusiasm, claiming these challenges fueled the team’s motivation to succeed at this year’s nationals. “This time off allowed everyone a chance to miss the competitive nature of nationals and the satisfaction of working toward that goal,” Williams said. “Everyone came back this year ready to fight.”
Many hours of practice and sacrificed time away from family over holiday breaks bonded the team and prepared them for their performance at the national competition in January.
“What made the difference this year is that everyone bought into the team and took on the mentality to do whatever it takes to make the team better, taking themselves out of the equation,” Williams said.
“Seeing our hard work pay off competing in finals and placing in sixth validated that we are the Alabama Dance Team, and we have what it takes to be one of the best,” Barr said.
The 2022 UDA College Dance Team National Championship brought together dozens of schools to recognize the talent and technique of spirit squads across the nation. Among those teams was Louisiana State University, which made headlines this year for its moving performance of “Like a Girl.” The video of their performance went viral for its message about representation and funding for female athletes.
Barr said she is proud to be a part of a supportive dance community that advocates for the advancement of female athletics on such a large platform.
As for future aspirations of the Alabama Dance Team, Williams says this year’s class of graduating seniors set high standards for team unity and leadership. As tryouts for next year’s team are approaching and projected to be one of the largest and most competitive classes yet, Williams remains optimistic for the team’s continued success.