WSU News

WSU dance team wins national competition

For more video of the Crimson Girls at their competition, click here.
WSU is about a quarter of the way down the list of teams.
PULLMAN, Wash. – Watch the Washington State University Crimson Girls two-minute performance that won first place in a national hip-hop competition last month and you’ll be jolted by the their lightning fast, yet precise, movements.
Feisty with staccato footwork and serious acrobatics, the 14 student dancers demonstrate that hip-hop is as much an attitude as it is a dance.
Donning black boots and vests, cut-off jean shorts and gray sweatshirts with crimson Cougar tank tops beneath, the students placed first in the 2012 USA Collegiate Hip-Hop Dance Competition held in Anaheim, Calif., March 18-19.
WSU Crimson Girls head coach Maggie Kazemba, left, and
assistant coach Jenny Gudgel during practice.
“They hit all the beats. They had energy,” said Crimson Girls head coach Maggie Kazemba. “As soon as they finished, I thought, ‘We could actually win this.’”

The University of Missouri placed second and San Diego State University took third.

Intricate choreography, physical stamina and brash energy set WSU apart from the other teams. The dancers, ages 19-23, move fluidly as a unit, performing back flips, foot-stomps, drops and spins.
WSU’s Crimson Girls are part of the athletic department’s Spirit Program, as are the cheer team and Butch T. Cougar. Kazemba – who was a Crimson dancer while earning her undergraduate and master’s degrees in architecture at WSU – is the team’s coach.
To raise money to compete in Anaheim, the group gave dance clinics to younger students, she said.
“Our dancers worked hard, both at raising money and practicing their routine. Even if they hadn’t won, I figured we’d walk away knowing we had a good time,” said Kazemba.
Speaks hip-hop
Hip-hop emerged in the 1970s from the streets of New York City into dance halls, onto stages and eventually along sidelines of college sports games. Whenever the Crimson Girls perform their routines at WSU’s home basketball games, “They draw the biggest applauses,” said Kazemba. “Our crowds love them.”
As do crowds nationally, as demonstrated by the popularity of television shows such as MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew” and Bravo’s “Step It Up and Dance.” Also, consider that more and more professional ballet companies are melding hip-hop with centuries-old classical dance in their performances.
Plenty of oomph
For the national collegiate competition, Crimson Girl Olivia Newhouse was all too happy to embrace the roomy robustness of hip-hop, she said. Newhouse, a nursing student, had started ballet lessons at the age of three.

“By the time I turned 12, hip-hop had gone mainstream,” she said. “I liked its high energy and not having to adhere to the super-disciplined moves of ballet.”

Even so, it’s hard not to think of discipline when viewing the winning performance. The moves of each body part – down to the muscle flexes and twitches – are tightly synchronized.
The routine is done to an eight-song mashup, including “Go Cougs,” by rapper E-Drid, or Erik Madrid, who graduated from WSU with a degree in public relations in 2005.
Dancing to E-Drid’s lyrics about the “crimson and gray thang” fueled the team’s energy on stage, said assistant coach Jenny Gudgel. She is wrapping up her fifth and final year as a Crimson Girl while preparing to graduate in May with a degree in accounting.
Talk about a grand finale.
“Everything came together and we clicked,” said Gudgel. “By the time we heard the music’s words about the Cougs and the Palouse, I just knew we were going to win.”
Maggie Kazemba, WSU Crimson Girls coach, 509-230-2210,
Linda Weiford, WSU News, 509-335-7209,