Showing what they do

By Emyle Watkins

Features Contributor

“One, two, three, four… Five, six, seven, eight…” Coaches Kaitlynn Hudden and Lauren Myslinski’s voices rise as a girl slips to the floor. She laughs, picks herself back up, and orchestrates herself back into the dance routine as if nothing had slowed her down.

At the end of a dance, sitting on the floor in her final pose, one dancer stops and says, “This is where I imagine a wink,” and she smiles as she practices her conclusion for the days when clapping follows her finale.

In Delavan Community Center, a group of eleven girls meet twice a week to repeat and repeat and repeat every movement, every step, every inch of every song to put together the fluid, confident dances they perform at every basketball game.

These are the Dance Griffs.

In one of their latest dances, to “My House” by Flo Rida, Petey the Griffin joins in and smiles are shared all around. However, last year this group of talented young women were nearly thrown out of their ‘house’ when athletic administration at the College quietly announced the dismantling of the Dance Griffs through an email to participants. The Dance Griffs and the cheerleaders were expected to dissolve and form a “spirit squad.”

“The team is getting built up from the ground again, ‘cause it wasn’t supposed to be around this year,” head coach Kaitlynn Hudden said. Hudden received her Bachelor’s in Education in 2015 and continued her schooling in the Master’s program at Canisius, as well.

While the Dance Griffs and the cheerleaders do share the motivation to rally in support of the Golden Griffins, and work together in doing so, the difference is clear to any Dance Griff.

“Well, dancers obviously dance, and cheer stunts, and cheer is more responsible for starting cheers,” said Canisius senior Dance Griff Brittney Hudden.

The Dance Griffs have existed since 2009. They’ve won several national titles and spent endless nights practicing in Delavan, in their dorm rooms, both alone and together, to perfect dances. Many of the girls balance strenuous majors, double majors, other clubs, and jobs. All on top of this, they find time to volunteer together in the community. There was no way they were going down this easy. This was their house, too.

“I feel as though we are a part of the basketball game; I feel as like without us there, a part would be missing,” Senior Kayla Guay said, “…There would be no entertainment at time-outs or half-time without us. I think that’s part of what the basketball game is all about, is entertainment.”

The Dance Griffs created a petition, and coaches Hudden and Myslinski, both former Dance Griffs themselves, volunteered their free time to coach the girls. After meeting with athletic staff, they were permitted to continue into the 2016-2017 year but are under different pressure this year.

“Athletics expects us to be there, be present at all games, be professional, and pump up the crowd. We have to impress athletics,” Coach Myslinski said.

This group of determined young dancers were willing to fight for their place in Canisius athletics, as dance runs deep for the majority of the team. Most of the girls on the team have been dancing for over thirteen years, according to Myslinski. For all of the girls, though, the Dance Griffs are a unique opportunity that most dancers don’t get when entering college.

“In college, you come and your studio is gone. I mean Jocelyn [Powers] comes from North Carolina, where there is no way she can dance in college coming to Canisius,” Coach Hudden noted, speaking to how the Dance Griffs provide a post-studio option for dancers.

The Dance Griffs don’t keep dancing just to impress athletics or to keep the team alive. They do it because they truly love the art of dance. It’s what they have have done for the greater part of their lives.

“Well, for me, I have been dancing since the sixth grade. I came from a really competitive studio,” freshman Jocelyn Powers said. “Dance was like one of the big requirements for me, because I didn’t want to stop dancing, I wanted to continue to grow as a dancer, and so for me it was like a priority. It’s one of the reasons I chose this school.”

As the Dance Griffs continue to rebuild, they hope to build the funding they need to return to competition. In 2012, 2013, and 2015, they landed first place in JDRF’s Cheer for a Cure. In 2012 and 2015, they found their way to first place in the U.S. Finals. They won’t return to competition this year, but continue to work towards that goal.
The Dance Griffs also annually dance at the Relay for Life and hold a recital at the end of the year. This is where their passion for storytelling through dance really comes to life.

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