Dance has always been a part of life for Berkley Holzschuh ’14.
She started dancing at the age of 3, at the Kennedy School of Dance in her hometown of Nampa, Idaho, where she learned ballet, tap, jazz and more.
“I like how contemporary dance is not very structured, lots of free-flowing movements, and jazz is hard-hitting and fun; you get to perform,” she said. “I really like to perform.”
Holzschuh is coaching her peers in the three-year-old student dance team, currently classified as a student club, and is launching the university’s first dance team competition, the Pacific Dance Invitational, to be held in less than a week.
She admits that it might not have been her idea to start dancing so young, but she’s continued enjoying it throughout her life. She danced through high school, where she was part of a competitive team similar to the one she is organizing at Pacific. That team required her to arrive for practice at 6 a.m. year-round.
“It’s a commitment level that’s very different from other sports teams,” she said.
In college, she immediately joined the Pacific Dance Ensemble, a formal performance group associated with the Department of Theatre and Dance. At the time, dance was offered as a minor at Pacific, but Holzschuh’s academic attention was focused elsewhere.
“I thought I wanted to be a doctor,” she said. Her first year, she took mostly biology and pre-med classes, but she quickly lost interest in favor of the business classes she was exploring. Then, when Pacific added a dance major in 2012, the beginning of her junior year, she jumped on board. This spring will mark the first class of dance majors graduating from Pacific, and Holzschuh is one of two.
Her senior project, establishing a dance team competition at Pacific, brings her two majors and her social interests together.
She admits it has been challenging to coach a team of her peers.
“We knew it was going to be kind of weird to have students coach, and I wanted to make sure there was a separation between dancer and coach,” she said. “I love all the girls on the team, and they’re all my friends and my peers, but at practice we have a pretty good understanding that they’re on the team and I’m the coach.”
She gets helped from two other students, assistant coaches Shaun Keylock ’15 and Jacqline Rosa ’16, who also have helped in launching the Pacific Dance Invitational.
“They help me out with the dance team stuff and invitational stuff when I need them to,” Holzschuh explained. “Because I am a student, and because I have two majors, I’ve been taking a lot of credits for the past two years, and so it’s just hard to fit everything in. There aren’t enough hours in the day.”
Nonetheless, she’s looking forward to the competition this weekend.
“Competition is addicting, no matter what level,” she said. “The thrill and adrenaline, it fires you — you just want more. I’m happy where I am, happy coaching, happy hosting this, and I’m very excited for some of these girls. I’m excited for them to get a taste of that.”
At the same time, she said, the inspiration for the competition also emerged from understanding the challenges of being a new dance team without much funding. Many other colleges in the Northwest have struggled to maintain dance teams because of a lack of nearby competitions and a lack of funds to attend the national competition in Orlando, Fla., she said.
The Pacific Dance Invitational will help by giving Pacific, along with teams from Lewis and Clark College, Pacific Lutheran University, and the University of Portland, an opportunity to compete. Plus, there will be donation boxes on site for each team.
“We thought it would be a great way for teams in this area to connect with each other and compete and get that experience,” she said.
The competition will be modeled after the Universal Dance Association and will involve a panel of judges and three main categories of performance: pom, jazz and hip-hop.
As for Holzschuh, she hopes to stay involved with the team and the competition even after graduating in May.
“We’re trying to transition from a club into a club sport. It’s our goal to get under the umbrella of the Athletic Department. At that point, there is a position for a paid coach, so I would hopefully apply for that position,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of support form our team, from my assistant coaches, and from the school in general.
“You can’t just go to a school and say, ‘We’re sophomores and we want to start a dance team.’ Another school wouldn’t just let you do that. Everyone’s just been really supportive and really helped me find my next steps.”
The Pacific Dance Invitational will be held in the Stoller Center on March 15 at 1 p.m. Admission is $3 for students with ID and $8 for adults.