Webster University’s Dance Line will gain the experience of a national, award-winning dance coach and looks to become recognized by the university’s athletic department.
Dance Line is a student-organized club, running with the help of the Student Government Association (SGA). Dance Line has entertained the fans by performing at halftime of the men’s and women’s basketball home games in Grant Gymnasium.
Sarah Roth, 26, is the coach of Mehlville High School’s (Mo.) dance team, the Pantherettes. Roth’s team is ranked fifth in the nation in both Large Varsity Jazz and Small Varsity Pom by the National Dance Alliance (NDA). Her Panthertte teams have competed at the NDA Championships for the past two years, winning four top-10 national awards in jazz, hip-hop and pom routines.
Roth is also a dance instructor at On Your Toes Dance Studio, located at 4835 Lemay Ferry Road. She has taught dance for more than 10 years in categories from hip-hop to ballet, with students ranging in age from 6 to high school ages. However, Roth has never coached on a collegiate level.
Her initial goal for Webster’s Dance Line would be to make it an athletic team.
“From what I understand, it (Dance Line) is something that isn’t extremely well-known on campus,” Roth said. “I would love to make it something for all dancers at this university and something they want to be a part of.”
Junior Jordan Featherston is the captain of Dance Line. She said during her three years, the team has grown tremendously, but she thinks it can get even better.
“We have gone from wearing tank tops to gold dresses, and even the dancing has changed a lot,” Featherston said.
Roth’s and Featherston’s vision for the future of dance at Webster is for the team to become part of Webster athletics, and a selective team like the other sports already offered.
Currently as a student club, it is not allowed to hold selective tryouts, which Featherston said has held them back from making large steps in talent.
“We were good before, but now we can be so much better with more experienced dancers on the squad,” Featherston said. “I think that will really help us and bring more people in.”
Dance Line has 10 members this year. To become recognized, they may need to recruit to keep the number high.
Tom Hart, Webster director of athletics, said multiple other clubs and student organizations have pushed in the past to become part of athletics. Where most fell short was in their ability to stick around.
“What ends up happening is that you get one or two relative proponents of an event or a sport, and when they go away so does the sport or event,” Hart said. “The idea of Dance Line, if it is a homegrown effort, it is one that has to be sustained in a long-term fashion.”
As a high school dance instructor, Roth knows many girls may look to compete or join a dance team when they go to college. She believes she can use the dance team not only to recruit new members each year but also as a tool for the university.
“If a (high school) dancer is choosing between two schools, and one has a dance team and the other one doesn’t, that is going to be their selling point,” Roth said. “To me, that is the most important thing the team can provide for the school.”
Georgia Prince, Maryville University’s Spirit Program director, started the dance and cheer teams at Maryville, an NCAA Division-II school, just three years ago. Similar to Roth, Prince took the student organization that was already in place and shaped it into a nationally-competing team.
“It was a little bit challenging since it hadn’t been a part of athletics previous to me being there,” Prince said. “There was a lot to do with educating people about what the Spirit Program was about and how it fit into the overall athletic picture.”
Roth believes the Webster dance team can become a well-known program in as short a time as next year.
“Just from being at a few practices, I think they have a lot of talent,” Roth said. “I would say that within the next two or three years they can be competing, if not nationally at least regionally.”