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Japanese Team Wins US Cheer and Dance Championship (May 30, 2005)

The Julias performing in Florida (Tamagawa University Dancedrill team "JULIAS")
In April a Japanese cheer and dance team won the Chick-fil-A Cheer & Dance Collegiate Championship in the United States. This victory makes the Julias - the dance team of Tamagawa University - the first collegiate team from Japan to win a cheer and dance championship in the United States, the homeland of this sport that combines cheerleading and dancing. Cheer and dance in Japan has recently been elevated from a mere performance used to express support for sports teams to a sport in its own right. It is flourishing not only as an extra-curricular activity at high schools and colleges but also as a healthy hobby at recreation centers and sports clubs. And the recent success of the Julias is sure to fan the flames of this craze.

From Third to First
The 2005 Chick-fil-A Cheer & Dance Collegiate Championship is the largest such competition in the United States in which college teams compete. This year's championship took place from April 6 to 8 in Daytona Beach, Florida. A total of 570 teams entered the Dance Division, which has four categories. The Julias competed in Dance Division II, for universities with 10,000 or fewer students.

On the first day, 24 teams chosen based on videos of their performances competed in the Dance Division II preliminaries. The Julias took third place and were among fourteen teams that went on to the finals, which were held on May 8. The Julias, a 16-member team, displayed their skills in a breathtaking, powerful performance to up-tempo music. The resounding applause and yells of approval from the audience continued well after the performance was over. And so it was that in the homeland of cheer and dance, a team from Japan emerged triumphant.

Posing with their trophy (Tamagawa University Dancedrill team "JULIAS")

A Dream Come True
Having earned a highly respectable second place in last year's Cheer & Dance Collegiate Championship, this year the Julias set their sights on achieving an all-out victory in the homeland of cheer dancing. But their victory was by no means assured. At a Japanese cheer and dance competition held in March, the team had to content itself with second place.

With hindsight, the Julias realized where they had gone wrong in the Japanese competition: They had failed to draw the audience in. Determined to do better next time, the team went through a checklist of problem areas. With rigorous practice, they tightened their presentation and improved their moves. Their efforts paid off in a big way. "Our dream of winning in the United States has come true, and we're so happy," said one of the team members.

Cheer and Dance Grows in Popularity
Japanese cheer and dance fans were naturally delighted by the Tamagawa University team's victory. But Japan's prowess in this sport is not limited to college students. In 2004, the Atsugi High School team was the first Japanese high school team to compete in the NDA National Dance Championship in the United States. Out of the blue, the Atsugi team bagged first prize in the Team Performance category. In another sign that Japan is becoming a major contender in the world of cheer and dance, some Japanese women have recently joined the roster of NFL cheerleaders.

Japan's recent cheer and dance successes have inspired a rapidly growing number of Japanese people of all ages to try the sport themselves. According to the Japan Cheer Dance Association, demand for cheer and dance instructors from recreation centers and sports clubs has grown sharply over the past two years. It seems that cheer and dance has a number of attractions. There is the fun of moving one's body, which even beginners feel from day one. There is the satisfaction that comes from mastering the required presentational skills (including that all-essential smile) and from teamwork. And of course, there is the sport's cheering power, which affects not only participants but spectators, too. With the sport's popularity rising, it will be no surprise if Japanese teams achieve more success in overseas competitions in the years ahead.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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