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Penn State Lionettes Achieve Program History At National Competition

The Penn State Lionettes made history this month by reaching the final round of this year’s UDA College Nationals in two competitive dance styles: pom and jazz. 

On January 12, the team traveled to Orlando, Florida, to compete in the annual competition and returned home to Happy Valley with great success. Prior to the event, we had the chance to catch up with team member Kelly Johnson and learned all about the promising weekend ahead.

The Lionettes compete in the Division 1A category each year, going head-to-head with the nation’s best collegiate dance teams. According to competition regulations, collegiate dance teams can perform multiple routines to compete in various dance style categories. 

But even as dancers across the nation train for the event, there is no guarantee each routine will make it to the final round of their respective category on the last day of the competition. 

“It all just comes down to two minutes, so we are all just really excited that the two minutes reflected the entire year of hard work,” junior Elena Vitale said. “We’re definitely really grateful that we all were able to produce what we did for Penn State and for ourselves.” 

Historically, the Lionettes make a yearlong effort to prepare two routines and achieve final-round status in one of the categories. However, this year they moved ahead in both categories of pom and jazz to the final day of competition, a first for Penn State. 

“Knowing what we put out on that stage and that we were rewarded for all that practicing we put into it is just a really great feeling to have,” junior Kelly Johnson said. “We are super grateful to have done well against so many other amazing teams.”

Courtesy of Kelly Johnson

Waiting backstage for their chance to compete, the team recalled the moment of mindfulness before putting its best foot forward on the national stage. 

“That feeling is really awesome because we are about to do the most important moment for all college dancers in the dance industry,” Johnson said. “That feeling of the adrenaline rush with your teammates, knowing that you’ve worked so hard for so long, and that you’re about to do the best that you absolutely can with them is just a really cool feeling.”

Remembering the historical announcement in which they learned of its qualification, the group reflected on the unforgettable, lifelong memory.

“It was just crazy the moment we found out… We felt really proud for what we put out there, but you never know what you’ll get,” junior Jaylyn D’Angelo said. “It was just such an amazing feeling the moment we heard it during the awards ceremony.”

Passionate as ever, the teammates celebrated together and gained momentum to continue in the competition.

“We all just started screaming and crying and hugging each other. I think we felt a very overwhelming sense of pride,” Vitale said. “It was a very happy moment.” 

Courtesy of Kelly Johnson

Building confidence throughout the weekend, the team found success through gratitude for its support network. 

“We had an amazing team of leaders behind us this year. They were able to help us really fine-tune, especially at those last practices before we went on,” Johnson said. “They definitely were our biggest support system and were just so positive, and that really helped us get to where we were.”

Thankful for the Penn State community, the Lionettes have already returned to practice with no plans of slowing down, especially after this year’s motivating result.

“We are all super grateful that we got to experience this together,” Johnson said.

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About the Author

Lizzie Palmieri

Lizzie is a junior majoring in Marketing and Psychology from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Ask her about Disney World, Diet Pepsi, or dancing on the Jumbotron at Beaver Stadium. When not causing general trouble, Lizzie enjoys playing golf, performing in the theatre, and being the CEO of reorganizing the fridge. Her favorite thing to do is hang out with her sassy sidekick, 19-year-old Italian Greyhound, Macaroni. Follow her on Twitter @lizziepalmieri if your deepest desire is bestie vibes only.

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