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UTEP DANCE TEAM -PICK UPS!

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By Herman Delgado

It’s been almost a year since the UTEP Dance Team were crowned national champions at the 2023 National Dance Alliance College Nationals, in Daytona Beach, Florida, last April. This year’s event takes place at the same location on April 10-13, 2024, and to say the team is excited, is an understatement. As they prepare for all UTEP athletic events and their upcoming competition, I visited them at their practice facility over at Holliday Hall to catch up on how things were coming along. Dance Team Coach Leslie Lopez has that intense coach look, but she cracks a smile and gleams with pride when talking about her dance team. “The feeling was surreal, I can’t even explain how excited, thrilled, or proud I am of my dancers,” said Lopez. “It’s a feeling that I can’t explain…I’m thrilled!” Upon their arrival from Daytona Beach, the UTEP Dance Team was met by many at the El Paso International Airport. Family, friends, and supporters holding up posters and banners to greet our national champions. They were also met by several members of the local media amid lots of cheers from proud El Pasoans and UTEP Alumni.

The UTEP Dance Team is present at several athletic venues throughout the year, and you can see and feel the difference they make for those in attendance. Their vibe and positive attitude carry over into the fans. “It’s always so important for us to be present for every single game, for our campus, and our community, but do know that when we’re away we are improving ourselves, learning from other colleges,” said Lopez. “When we left back in April….we went in with one goal…to make finals and from that goal we went on to a bigger goal….to become national champions. I tell my girls, just because we’re national champions doesn’t mean we’re better than everybody else, it means we must work harder. That means that everyone else is putting us at that high standard and we must maintain that standard….but also surpass that standard, to go over and beyond.” You must understand that Lopez is the daughter of a retired United States Marine, so she instills that work ethic into her dancer’s daily life. “Teaching these girls discipline…every single detail not only shows how they carry themselves, but it also shows that if they’re going to go for an interview, they’re going to look like this and have that mentality that they’re going to carry themselves as a professional”, said Lopez. “When they leave this team, they’ll remember how it is to be and look professional…attention to detail. You can say my dad’s way of doing things carries over to me and how I carry on with my team….I want them to carry themselves like young ladies….they’re amazing girls, amazing dancers, hard workers…they come in three days out of the week for two-hour practices.” This type of work ethic carries over into professional careers, whether it’s business or dancing. A former dancer that made that leap into the professional ranks is Makayla Santana. “Makayla, a beautiful dancer who stuck with this team and asked for my blessing as she pursued a professional dancer position out in Phoenix,” said Lopez. Santana the former UTEP Dance Team member is now with the ‘Suns Dancers’, an entertainment group affiliated with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.

Brianna Cedillo, Senior Kinesiology Major has been on the dance team all four years while she’s been a student athlete at UTEP. She is grateful for the work ethic that Coach Lopez has instilled in her and her teammates and hopes to take her dance career to the next level. “Many people in my life had no idea how much work went into what I do…what we all do. I hope to continue with my dance career at the professional level,” said Cedillo. “I hope to join a professional team with the NFL. I’m looking at the Cardinals or Texans…I don’t want to go to far from home, so I want to remain close.” Cedillo understands the importance of what she’s learned from Coach Lopez and others on her team. “Everything from your appearance to your dance moves makes all the difference,” said Cedillo.

Aliseana Lopez, Senior, Kinesiology Major is another dancer who spends numerous hours practicing and contributing to the team, understands the importance of having earned that national championship and understands that with that title comes hard work and how their performance carries on out to the community and fans who come to watch them. Whatever event that these dancers perform at, they must be mentality as well as physically prepared to capture the crowds’ attention. “We worked so hard to get here,” said Aliseana. “We set the bar high, so we have to deliver! The only way we can go is up.”

Brianna Carranco, Senior, Dance Major, took a break from teaching a group of middle school girls to express her Miner pride and love for her teammates. “Preparing for nationals was mentally and physically challenging,” said Carranco. “Every day starting at 7:30, so when we won nationals, it was a best feeling ever…our hard work paid off. I’ve been part of this team for four years and I love it!”

Taking it to the top, team unity, respect, and love for one another is the common theme for the UTEP Dance Team. These girls are true ambassadors for UTEP, our city, and their families. So, the next time you see them at a sporting event or out in the community representing UTEP, take a second and give them a “Picks Up! Go Miners! and Congratulations!” They have earned it.

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