By Claire Alonso
In case you didn’t tune in, UCLA Sports Radio interviewed the one and only Jennifer Antes on UCLA’s Dance Team. DJ Oatmilk Advocate and DJ Chicken Salad picked her brain about everything dance, everything UCLA, and so much more.
Though we all know Jen from UCLA, her story goes back further. Jen emphasized her parents throughout her interview and how grateful she is for their hard work and support that have helped her get to where she is today. Both Jen’s parents are immigrants from Brazil. It was hard for them to build from the ground up, especially with English as their second language, but Jen is so proud to say they made it! Now that she’s dancing on the big stage, her parents couldn’t be prouder. Lovingly, Jen jokes about the cultural differences she experiences between her and her parents. She honestly couldn’t even explain some of the tournaments to them.
Last year was Jen’s freshman year; she was one of two girls who made it on the team out of hundreds. She was also the only rookie on the dance team last year. Being the only one that year adjusting to dance and school simultaneously was challenging, but she seems to have gotten the hang of it now! Jen traveled for football this year, which is special as she is still an underclassman. She also walked us through a day in her life, which, though busy, seems like she has it all under control so far.
Listening to Jen’s daily routine and experience as a freshman was riveting, but as the conversation turned to other topics, I found myself further on the edge of my seat. Specifically, I loved hearing about her experience with dance outside of football.
As many can tell, and as Jen explained, the dance team at UCLA is much different from all other forms of dance. At UCLA, the team is a sport. They have early practices, arrive at games early, and even sport the famous UCLA athlete backpacks. The team has to put in work over the summer as well. During practices, they will take hours to perfect minute-long routines and have every dancer in complete sync. Our UCLA dance team does not compete in national competitions, so they put all their time and energy into leaving everything on the field. Even though dancing on a college team is technically a sideline gig, the competitive spirit continues to run deep. Jen shares that during rivalry games, when the pressure is high, she is on her A game as the dance teams are almost competing as well. The dancers are also taught to continue to smile on the field – even when losing by 50. Though it all pays off, and Jen describes dancing (especially when winning) as “unexplainable joy,” other parts of dance have been important in Jen’s life as well.
Jen went to a performing arts school before attending UCLA and learned to appreciate many other styles of dance. In her interview, she highlighted contemporary, which was as beautiful to hear about as it is to watch. While the dance team is precise, sharp, and very cheer-like, Jen describes the contemporary style of dance as “unexplainable, niche, [and] abstract” and says that it “can be whatever you want.” She appreciates this stylistic and artistic form of dance, which augments the dance team style. Jen even goes as far as choreographing beautiful contemporary routines that showcase a different type of dance with more emotion and fluidity than you will see on the field and court during games.
When asked about her future, Jen remains unsure, as most of the 2nd years in college probably are. Dance is an incredibly hard industry to break into and truly make a living. UCLA’s top-notch dance team has sent many dancers to the NFL and NBA as dancers, which Jen feels might not be calling her name. Though it’s an incredible way to continue to dance post-grad, Jen isn’t sure if she wants to keep cheering for a team after college. If she were to do something in dance, Jen would want to pursue a career where dance is highlighted.
Jen highlighted the difference between dance and conventional sports in her interview. She explained, “To be a dancer, you have to be an athlete, but it’s an art form, not a sport.” The athleticism and effort to be a dancer alone seem enough to qualify it as a conventional sport, but Jen explains that dance is much deeper than that. The intention and creativity behind each performance in dance set it apart from other sports. To simplify it further, she described, “[dance] is more similar to music than soccer.”
Even though Jen’s enlightening interview has passed, basketball season is just starting. (Jen’s personal favorite) You can catch her in Pauley Pavilion with her poms at a 45-degree angle – and make sure to give her a wave! She always spots her friends at games 🙂