The Dukettes dance team and JMU Nuance Winterguard both advanced to final rounds of competition

The Dukettes headed to Daytona Beach after 2 days full of competition and rehearsal

April 13, 2017—The Dukettes dance team and JMU Nuance Winterguard competed at the national and world levels last weekend. Both teams advanced to their final rounds of competition. 

Last Wednesday, the Dukettes traveled to Daytona Beach, Florida for the 2017 National Dance Alliance (NDA) Collegiate National Championship. After scoring a 9.503 in Thursday’s preliminary round, the team went into rehearsal with their eyes on a third-consecutive national championship title. Thursday’s prelims run placed them ahead of all the other teams in their division. Therefore, they were last to perform in the final round on Friday.

The Dukettes finished second in their division with a score of 9.529. “We’ve been National Champions for two years, and we were in first place going into [finals]. That’s a lot of pressure,” said Chad Reep, Assistant Director of Athletic Bands, who traveled to Daytona Beach to support the team. “They were beautiful, though. I’m so proud of them.”

The pressure the Dukettes were under didn’t stop there: The team that won first place—University of Missouri Kansas City—did not compete in this division until this year. “They had been successful in their other divisions, so we knew they were going to be good,” said Julia Urban, the coach of the Dukettes. “There were actually a number of new teams in our division this year who had success in other divisions or completely different competitions. So, we knew it was going to be a game changer. We were excited to see what would happen.”

This year, the team danced to the song “To Build a Home” by The Cinematic Orchestra. “We were expressing the story of loss and reflection. For our seniors, the thing they were losing was the Dukettes. A lot of it was very personal for us,” Urban explained. “The loss of a loved one is shown through the relationship between dancers Paige Ensminger (junior) and Joey Sandy (senior, and a team captain). In the routine, they are a husband and wife, and Paige is sick. Throughout the length of the routine, they are fighting for [Paige’s] life, but she ends up passing away.”

The Dukettes didn’t tell this story of loss the easy way, either. This year the team used a new choreographer and more difficult dance technique. “Every year we push ourselves with getting our quality of movement more advanced, while still staying uniform and synchronized,” said Urban. “I feel like we achieved all our goals and more. So, going down to Daytona, we had done everything we wanted to do—we were just excited to now show it off.”

While the dance team enjoyed some much-deserved downtime in Daytona Beach, Nuance Winterguard was in Dayton, Ohio, awaiting their semifinals score in the Winter Guard International (WGI) World Championships. During the semifinal round Nuance received a score of 85.31, which placed them 20th in the world, and qualified them for a performance in the final round of competition.

This year’s Nuance team was comprised of 19 members—all of whom were members of the Marching Royal Dukes Colorguard this past season. The team had been perfecting their show and competing both locally and nationally every weekend since February in preparation for WGI World Championships. They earned 5 of 5 first place finishes in their local circuit, a Gold Medal at their circuit championships, and top three finishes in each of their three WGI regionals. 

This year’s Nuance show, titled “Roses in Bloom” was quite a spectacle. The overarching theme focused on transformation. Nuance Director Carly Philp explained the transformation, “It starts with only grays and whites, and throughout the course of the show we reveal the colored petals on the floor, we open up a huge rose in the back corner, we change costumes, change our flags, and rose petals come out of our flags. At the very end, we finally bloom the rose. The show goes from tight and colorless to an open, colorful explosion.”

When asked what the team did particularly well this season, Philp explained that the style of movement in this year’s show is a step away from the norm. “We incorporated a lot more skills with equipment work, body, and movement than they have been doing in the past years. The movement required them to take themselves off their center and explore a different type of movement than you usually do in the colorguard world.”

Philp commented that their goals for next season center on continuing to improve the program. “Just to continue building and growing,” she said. “The team is a family who constantly pushes each other to grow and improve each day. They are a true inspiration.”

Both teams represented James Madison University in front of thousands of people with truly inspiring performances. Interested in joining the teams? Auditions for the Dukettes will be held on Saturday April 22, and Sunday April 23 at Harrisonburg High School. Marching Royal Dukes Colorguard auditions will take place Saturday June 24.

By Annie Franks ('18), JMU Athletic Bands

Published: Friday, April 14, 2017

Last Updated: Monday, May 7, 2018

Back to Top

Related Articles