Every year since 2005, the Louisiana State University’s Tiger Girls have placed in the top 10 of 100’s of teams at Universal Dance Academy (UDA) nationals. In 2021, the Tiger Girls were denied the opportunity to compete at nationals by their school, who cited “lack of staff in the training room.” The Tiger Girls made national news with a trending petition asking LSU to reconsider their decision.
“Telling these kids they can’t compete is confusing, and degrading them in comparison to other athletes, while they are still held to the same standards. Taking away this opportunity to compete and grow in their craft as dedicated athletes minimizes this program to only beautiful girls who stand on the sideline supporting other athletes, while never getting the opportunity to compete themselves. They are so much more than that,” Tiger Girls alumni and choreographer Sammy McFadden said in a statement on Instagram.
While they weren’t able to compete, they were still allowed to dance at football and basketball games. “We’re the low hanging fruit, since we aren’t bringing in the money, we don’t have ticket sales, things like that, we typically will be the ones that are pushed aside first,” Tiger Girl Rebecca Tierney said in a statement to the LSU Wire.
Ultimately, the Tiger Girls did not end up getting to compete in 2021. In 2022, the Tiger Girls were back to send a message. “The Tiger Girls brought attention to disparities between male and female sports because it showed how most of the time, male-dominated sports have priority over female-dominated sports, LSU’s dance was dedicated to any female athlete who has felt neglected because of their male counterparts. That is an important message to deliver to dancers so they know they are worthy and that women deserve as much respect as men in sports,” dance team sophomore Ella Turkel said. Their hip-hop dance to “Like a Boy” by Ciara sent the message loud and clear: they wanted to be treated with respect. The Tiger Girls took home the gold in hip-hop for the first time in 12 years and their dance went viral.
“LSU’s victory showed me the impossible. Their team had to push their administration to let them compete at UDA College Nationals. This victory proved their administration wrong. This victory led to inspiration for the Marian Dance Team (MDT). We are all inspired by their amazing message,” junior Payton Vosik said. Their message, bringing attention to disparities between male and female college sports, was felt by athletes around the country.
The MDT is no stranger to being treated differently. Dance is often dubbed as a “girl sport,” which makes it difficult to be taken seriously. “I hate how dance is considered a ‘girl sport.’ It’s categorized as that because people don’t think girls are qualified to do sports that boys do. But in reality, boys would not be able to do half the stuff we do at the level we do,” junior MDT member Lily Dencklau said.
Due to COVID-19, the dance team was not allowed to compete at nationals last year. “I feel like we relate to them. I feel like we had a really strong pom performance last year, and I feel like we had so much potential to do good. I feel like we are more motivated than ever because we have two routines that we have worked on since August,” Vosik said.
The team hopes that their six months of work pays off at nationals in Orlando, Florida this year. “I definitely feel like our team is much more motivated this year after not going to nationals last year. We are working harder than ever to show that the Marian Dance Team is a force to be reckoned with. All of our hard work that has been put into these routines will hopefully pay off at Nationals in Florida,” Turkel said.
The dance team will compete at UDA nationals on Feb. 4 in both pom and jazz, hoping to follow in LSU’s footsteps and bring home the gold.