SMC announces Laura Odenwald as dance team volunteer coach

DOWAGIAC — Southwestern Michigan College’s new dance team coach has journeyed from Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, Maryland, to Dowagiac’s Cherry Grove Road.

Laura Odenwald, wife of SMC President Dr. Joe Odenwald and a former Maryland state champion, will serve as volunteer coach of the new squad beginning in fall 2022, when the college rejoins intercollegiate men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball and wrestling after a 25-year hiatus. NJCAA cross country returns this fall.

Spouses of SMC presidents traditionally give back to the college, officials said. Coaching a new competitive dance team in a volunteer capacity is how Odenwald, who began ballet at 6, decided to share her time and talents.

The dance team will offer students an extra-curricular sport focused on performance while providing the camaraderie and support of a close-knit team. The team will entertain SMC spectators while also competing at the national level through spring National Dance Alliance competitions.

“I’m excited to be part of bringing this opportunity to our students, as well as entertainment to our community,” Odenwald said. “We have so many dance studios and talented dancers in the area, but very few dance teams at the community-college level. I think this is an area where SMC can truly stand out.”

Odenwald said the dance team will perform at halftime of every home men’s and women’s basketball game and do short sideline routines to the pep band’s music during games.

This will be a year-round sport, running August-April. Dancers will also be expected to attend an NDA dance camp every summer as a team. Practices will generally run three times a week for two hours, with more during competition season. Dancers will also be expected to do strength training on their own.

“I’m looking for 10 to 20 talented and hard-working dancers with a strong foundation in ballet and jazz technique,” she said. Experience in hip hop, pom and kick-line style performance are also desired. Dancers should have experience at a dance studio and/or a high school varsity-level dance or pompon team.

When selecting dancers, Odenwald said she will be more concerned about overall dance technique and style than executing specific moves. However, at a minimum, dancers should have mastered double pirouette turns, high kicks, toe-touch jumps and basic jazz leaps. Odenwald built her own strong foundation in ballet technique, then added jazz, modern and hip hop as she progressed in her training.

“I anticipate providing a number of leadership opportunities for students on the dance team,” she added. “A captain and co-captain will be selected through a nomination and application process. There will also be other positions, such as choreography coordinator, strength training coordinator and social coordinator.”

Odenwald, who holds a 2010 bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University, danced for four years on her high school varsity pompon team at Quince Orchard, which won multiple Division I competitions. In the 2003-04 season, QO won first place at the Maryland State Championship, County Championship, Liberty Bell Championship and the Green and Gold Championship. Odenwald served as a captain and a co-captain while on the team and was personally recognized for her sportsmanship and hard work with the 2005 QOHS “Cougar Award.”

Since then, she has continued to dance for enjoyment and exercise and looks forward to dance being a major part of her life again.

Students interested in learning more about the team should contact Coach Odenwald at danceteam@swmich.edu. Anyone wanting to formally audition will be asked to provide an audition video and to fill out a questionnaire. Odenwald will also be available to meet with recruits on campus. Athletic scholarships will be available, with details forthcoming.

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