Ridgebacks dancers in the spotlight tonight

UOIT dancers Victoria Berkers (left) and Danielle Bates. Photo credit: Janis Williams

The UOIT Varsity Dance Team may be one of the best kept secrets in campus athletics – that’s certainly the case for at least two members of the squad.

Teammates Danielle Bates, 20, and Victoria Berkers, 21, have danced competitively as Ridgebacks for two seasons.

“Hopefully for other people in high school, they realize we (UOIT) have a team,” says Berkers, “we didn’t even realize it until we were already here.”

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Danielle Bates (left) and Victoria Berkers are ready for the seventh annual Ridgeback Dance Showcase at the Regent Theatre in Oshawa. Photo credit: Janis Williams

Both Bowmanville women share more than just time together in the studio. They are third-year Kinesiology students who have danced since childhood. They knew each other before UOIT, attending Clarington Central Secondary School, one year apart.

They started this season strongly on March 8 in Guelph, with a first-place finish in the age 21 contemporary duo/trio category at the Terpsichore Dance Celebration.

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Victoria Berkers (left) and Danielle Bates perform March 8 at the Terpsichore Dance Celebration in Guelph. Photo credit: Provided by Victoria Berkers

The duo put the winning piece, called To Believe, together a few weeks ago and say they were surprised but proud of their accomplishment.

The same day, Bates, Berkers and fellow Ridgeback dancers performed a routine called Coaster, which took the number one spot in the age 20 contemporary small group competition.

Varsity dance began at UOIT in 2009-2010, says Scott Dennis, marketing coordinator for Durham College and UOIT Athletics.

There were a number of dance clubs on campus before its inception as a competitive varsity team, he says.

According to Dennis, students took their idea to athletic director Ken Babcock and athletic coordinator Scott Barker and proved there was interest in the club.

Head coach Brianne Dallas says the team doesn’t recruit. Instead, they hold open auditions, targeting dancers with a wide variety of styles and competitive backgrounds. Auditions take place each September.

“Depending on who is auditioning, it can become competitive,” says Dallas, who danced on the team throughout her four years as a student.

The team, currently home to eight members, is evolving.

This year, Dallas introduced hip hop to the mix of jazz, lyrical and contemporary dance.

Next year, the coach hopes to add tap to the lineup, noting the team has phenomenal tappers already on the roster.

Bates and six of her teammates plan to dance again next year. But this season is Berkers’ final curtain call, something she calls bittersweet.

“I really enjoyed my experience here, I wish I started earlier,” says Berkers, “it made my time at UOIT better.”

For now, the focus for the coach and her team is the seventh annual Ridgeback Dance Showcase at the Regent Theatre in Oshawa tonight (March 14).

Bates says this year’s event will be an entertaining show, with a lot of variety and genres of dance.

Dallas says she enjoys seeing the show come together with costumes, choreography and performance.

“The best part about being a coach is seeing the result of your dancers on stage,” she says, “when they are proud of themselves, it makes me feel like I successfully led them.”

Doors open for the showcase at 7 p.m. and tickets are free for students.