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Leah Dudziak & Lisa Ruggero

Two ESF Students on SU Dance Team
Posted February 2007

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Center court of the Carrier Dome on game day might not be the first place you'd expect to see ESF students, but two of the College's own are there every time the Syracuse University basketball team takes the court.

ESF senior Leah Dudziak and freshman Lisa Ruggero are members of the Syracuse University Dance Team. They perform at SU football games and men's and women's basketball games.

Thanks to a longstanding relationship with neighboring Syracuse University, ESF students enjoy the intimacy of a small, specialized college with all the benefits of a large university. The ESF/SU relationship provides students with the complete gambit of activities and sports. Students can join any of the 300 extracurricular SU clubs or activities. ESF students can't participate in SU's Division I NCAA sports, however that doesn't mean our students don't get in on the action.

Dudziak, a biotechnology major from Marcy, N.Y., was elected dance team captain this year. She joined the team while a freshman at SU but transferred to ESF her sophomore year. With 15 years of dance experience to her credit, Dudziak wanted to attend a college with a dance team. At ESF, she got the best of both worlds - the science of ESF next door to the dance team of SU.

"There were many reasons to come to ESF," she said. "They have a better program for what I wanted. The science is definitely more vigorous."

For Ruggero of Long Island, joining the dance team enabled her to get involved in college life while using her dance and cheerleading skills.

"I was very extracurricular in high school and wanted to keep it up," she said. Having danced since she was 2 years old, Ruggero felt she had a good chance to make the team but she said the auditions were difficult.

"I knew I had a strong dance background. I just had to show them," she said.

An environmental and forest biology major, Ruggero is looking at the many educational tracks available to an EFB student. "There are lots of options to consider," she said. "I know I like science and I know I want to help the environment."

The opportunity to mix science and dance was a huge draw for Ruggero.

"It's a big selling point," she said. "I knew I was coming here and that I also had access to all SU had to offer. I think that should sell anyone on ESF. It's such an amazing thing."

Both young women emphasize the importance of time management to successfully balance academics and dance. Days are spent in classes and Moon Library completing the days' assignments and then it's off to nightly three-hour dance practices or games.

"I look forward to (dancing) after a hard day," said Dudziak. "Dancing is a huge stress reliever."

The dance team performs at the 16-minute breaks in the first and second half of the game, at half time and during timeouts. They also learn shorter sideline routines they do with the cheerleaders and spirit squad.

"We try to switch it up all the time," Ruggero said. "We're always learning something new." One of those new things was a routine Ruggero choreographed to "Calabria" by Enur. The minute-long routine was performed at two games this season.

"The energy in the Dome when 27,000 people are watching you, it's addictive," Ruggero said.

Being on the team also presents an opportunity to travel with the sports teams. As a senior, Dudziak is looking forward to traveling with the men's team for the NCAA Tournament in March. "Hopefully we'll make it to the Big East," she said.

The dancers do more than encourage team spirit. They also contribute to community spirit. The team members participate in a couple community service events each month.

"We've raised funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, drawn attention to literacy by reading at schools and helped call attention to health issues," said Dudziak.

The community involvement helps break a stereotype that troubles the dancers. "We wear little outfits so people think we're not smart," said Dudziak, who is premed at ESF. "We're very intelligent people."

ESF Students Make their Mark