UCSD Dancesport

Prior to the show, Revelle College junior and Dancesport co-captain Karen Li said she was excited to represent UCSD.

“I personally embrace our identity as nerds, but we’re about to show America that even nerds can really shake it,” Li said.

After submitting a tryout video to “Dancing with the Stars” earlier this year, the UCSD dancers were informed they had landed a spot on the show. They immediately scrambled to put together a brand-new routine that followed the championship guidelines. The team usually performs medleys — combining Latin dances like the cha-cha, rumba and jive — but ABC producers asked competitors to stick to one style for their two-minute performances.

The day of the competition, the UCSD team flashed wide, 100-watt smiles while whipping their red sequined skirts through the air. Complete with intricate formation changes, the team performed an ambitious dance routine that wowed judges — despite minor critiques.

“As a nationally ranked team, we just want to show people that we are upholding our reputation and are the best,” said varsity team member and Muir College sophomore Antwon Trinh.

Dancesport were showered in accolades like “Great job,” and “Well done,” from the judges, and earned a score of 24 out of 30 for their samba — two points above Purdue’s mamba. The official winner will be announced on today’s episode, after audience votes are tallied. From there, the favorite will advance to the final College Dance Championship that will take place on the night of the season finale.

According to Dancesport coach Peter Edwards, the team treated the performance like it would any other show.

“We always do it the same kind of way: bringing the same kind of spirit, the same kind of energy,” Edwards said. “It doesn’t matter who you are — we want to give you our best every time,” said Edwards.

Dancesport has been enrolled in the club-sport program on campus for almost 20 years, and is currently ranked third in the nation for collegiate formation teams. At the recent national championships — the Stanford Cardinal Classic — the UCSD varsity team placed first, while junior varsity took second.

Forming the largest club team on campus, the 150 members of Dancesport are separated into four different skill brackets. Participants learn all styles of dance — from swing to nightclub — and spend between five to 10 hours per week at practice. The five couples who appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” held rehearsal in Edwards’ private studio from midnight to 3 a.m. four days a week for the two weeks leading up to the show, so as not to interrupt regular Dancesport practices.

“I would describe the UC San Diego Dancesport team as a bunch of very diverse individuals — there’s bioengineers, neuroscience majors — who all come together because we love to dance,” said Varsity team member and Warren college student Renee Saedi.

Edwards, who was a member of UCSD Dancesport himself when he was a Revelle College student, said it took an incredible amount of dedication and commitment for the team to emerge victorious from eight of nine competitions this year.

“The kids were competing all year long: every single competition, they stayed, engaged and worked as hard as they possibly could, [leaving] it all on the dance floor,” Edwards said.

The Tritons will perform a grand finale on Saturday, May 30 in Price Center Ballroom West, showcasing all the routines with which they have competed this year, including a few hip-hop and tap numbers. Tickets are on sale at the UCSD Box Office. And if all goes according to their team motto — “kick butt, take names and send them home crying, with dignity and respect” — it should be worth the ticket.

Readers can contact Zoe Sophos at [email protected].