During halftime at St. John’s basketball games, crowds dressed in red and white continue to cheer. This is because the St. John’s dance team is causing a whirlwind across the court.
The Dance Team placed second in the hip-hop division at the 2011 College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championships on ESPN in January. The 17 members on the team, along with the constant guidance from their coaches, achieved second place in the country due to the dedication they contribute to each move and trick in every performance.
The vibrant hip-hop routine incorporates various flips and tricks which mesmerizes not only the crowds at basketball games, but also the judges at nationals in Kissimme, Florida.
“We overheard the parents of an opposing team saying to their daughter, ‘Honey, you did great, but the St. John’s team was like a rocket ship,” said Coach Christine McCarton. “We had numerous tricks in the routine and we only changed two things from the original choreography for the competition.”
Christine McCarton who has been coaching the St. John’s Dance Team for the past nine years, worked for the C.W. Post–Long Island University team before coaching St. John’s. In 2006, the Long Island Business News named her one of the “40 rising stars under the age of 40.” Despite her dedication to the team, she credits the team’s success to the dancers who strive for excellence with every dance.
“This whole time the team pulled it together and we were so pleased to work towards this common goal,” said McCarton.
“The feeling was indescribable,” said Michaela Stanley, one of the captains for the team, describing how she felt when the team placed second at nationals.
“We told ourselves that we could totally take Top three, so we had to leave it all on that floor. We were completely surprised when we were called for second. It was a dream come true and probably the happiest moment of my life.”
The team of 16 girls and one boy began learning the routine back in October. However, with performances at each soccer game and basketball game, they could not focus their energy towards the competition until Thanksgiving.
The team’s goal was to outdo their score from the previous competition. Yet the chance of winning a medal at nationals was constantly in the back of their mind.
The team took third place in the Jazz division in 2005, however, they have never placed higher than seventh place in the hip-hop division. When the team took fifth place in the Semi-Finals this January, they realistically worked towards winning a medal in the finals.
“We really wanted a medal so we knew we had to be close to perfect,” said McCarton. “We looked at the team’s score and the judges’ comments. So during the few hours between Semi-Finals and the Finals, we practiced for over an hour correcting and working on the points which the judges suggested.”
During the Finals, the team gave a clean and concise performance scoring only half a point lower than the University of Delaware which placed first in the hip-hop division.
When it was announced that the team received second place, Coach McCarton and the team members were in tears.
“There were a few tricks that were particularly hard in our dance that we didn’t hit in the semi-finals,” said Stanley. “So once I found out everyone hit the tricks in finals, I was so proud. After we danced, we watched the playback of our dance and everything was as perfect as we wanted it to be.”
Since their success at nationals, Athenia Elie, the assistant coach of the team, noticed that the dance team received more enthusiasm from the crowds during halftime.
“Overall, I feel the fans have appreciated us more and the crowd is more lively this season,” said Elie. “The team is not tired of the hip-hop routine – they love to perform it every day.”
With seven freshmen on the team, the St. John’s Dance Team is still young and full of potential. Elie hopes that the team will place in the Top 3 in both hip-hop and Jazz next season.
McCarton also hopes that the Dance Team can continue to entertain the crowds with lively routines.
“I would love our team to continue coming up with different routines for the basketball games,” said McCarton. “Hopefully they can perform in the NCAA tournament for both men’s and women’s basketball.”
Stanley who has spent the past four years on the team considers her teammates as her second family.
“We are all great friends with a common passion. We go through so much together. Grueling nine to five practices preparing for nationals and dancing at double headers that we really feel like a family,” said Stanley. “Dance team is all about performing. That’s probably my favorite part of it all, whether we are doing that at nationals, Carnesecca or MSG. We want to give the crowd the opportunity to enjoy a dance performance just as much as we do.”
To see the Dance Team performance from Nationals, visit the official St. John’s Red Storm website at