Lafayette, LA- The Gator Jazz Dance Team, led by Samantha Leger, at Ascension Episcopal School made school history and Lafayette proud at the 2021 DTU National Championship. Bringing home the 1st place title in Small Varsity Pom division, capturing 2nd place in Small Varsity Jazz, and winning the Pom Battle has shown the growth this incredibly talented team has accomplished since its beginning in 2009.
Milan Milson of Youngsville began as coach of the upper school dance team in 2016. With 20 years of dance experience, Milson’s expertise took this dance team from average to exceptional. A great deal of emphasis was placed on technique, timing, and exciting routines, which made Ascension's Gator Jazz stand out in their first local competition in 2019. Milson says, “They placed 1st in small varsity jazz amongst their competitors. From there, I knew they were ready to compete at the next level!” In 2020, the team made it to national’s for the first time in school history. “In 2020, the girls placed 3rd in the small varsity pom division against 30 teams and 4th in the small varsity jazz division against 29 teams!! Emily Hebert competed against 40 other soloists to be ranked as a top 17 national finalist. All within their FIRST YEAR of competing,” Milson comments.
With Milson leaving Ascension in May of 2020, it was up to Coach Samantha Leger to continue the team’s upward trajectory. Despite this being Coach Leger’s first year leading Ascension’s Gator Jazz team, she believes the past year’s experience helped her team. “We all kind of started from scratch and had to grow together with it being my first year,” she says. As they came together with “No Limits” as a common goal, Leger said, “The ladies realized what they were capable of when they attended nationals for the first time last year. They wanted to push to even more heights, knowing it was doable if they stayed committed. This year, they were dedicated to the task, leaned on
each other when their confidence wavered, and persevered when the season was extended,” says Leger.
Leger said with nationals expanding from a three-month process to a six-month process, it required a lot of mental strength from the Gator Jazz team. “It took mental dedication inside and outside of practice to keep moving and remain committed to achieving their common goal despite quarantines, an extended practice period, and schedule changes,” Leger comments.
When asked what this win meant for her and the Ascension Gator Jazz team, Leger says, “These wins mean everything. It was a milestone they overcame. Coming home with a national title means they now know that they are absolutely capable of achieving their goal of “No Limits.” They pushed through every challenge, set a high bar for themselves, and grew in confidence and skill. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Former coach Milan Milson, also said this about their national win, “I was overjoyed for the girls! From the beginning, I always knew they were capable of accomplishing such great things. And that's exactly what they did!"