Palma finds new dance family at Merrimack

Palma finds new dance family at Merrimack

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Growing up, Cheshire teenager Charlotte Palma loved dancing competitively for Rhythm Dance Academy, Cheshire Performing Arts Academy, and Eastman Dance Company (North Haven). She formed close friendships and developed her skills as a performer.

“I love to compete. I’ve done it for my whole life,” reflected Palma, who started dancing at age 2.

In graduating from Cheshire High School this year, Palma was sad to say goodbye to her fellow dance friends, but she is thankful to have found a new family. At Merrimack College in Massachusetts, she has quickly created bonds on the competitive and game day dance teams.

“I’ve danced my whole life and I wanted to keep doing it in college,” explained Palma. “I knew that it would be a time commitment, but I’m glad that I decided to do it.”

She has already helped her competition squad earn a special honor. In the National Dance Alliance Camp from Aug. 2-4, Merrimack women placed first in the Division I category at Bryant University in Rhode Island.

“It was a lot of work, but it paid off to get first place,” said Palma.

The camp started with two days of dance classes. In their night session with professional instructors, Merrimack practiced from 8 to 10 p.m. in a gym, but after the facility closed, they went outside to train for another two hours.

“We had very long days,” recalled Palma. “It was definitely difficult to learn everything because we had just met each other. The camp brought us together because we all experienced everything together.”

After working on their skills, the 17-member squad performed on the last day of the camp. Lyrical, pom dancing, and hip hop sections were included in a routine that lasted for a minute-and-a-half.

A song was played during the performance.

“The judges scored how we did on the dance and how our spirit was over the course of the week,” Palma explained.

Along with taking first place as a team, the Warriors received a gold bid to 2024 NDA College Nationals to be held April 10-13 in Daytona, Florida.

“Everyone starts with a bronze bid, but you can move up. We got the highest one, so we’ll get more money toward the competition,” explained Palma.

This year is Merrimack’s first year as a D-I program. The dance team has shifted from a club to a varsity sport.

“We got most of our gear paid for this year,” stated Palma. “It is nice to be respected by the school and in D-I.”

While Palma is an experienced competitor, preparing to dance at football games is a new experience. Her Merrimack game day squad will dance on the sideline with pom poms and create a routine for halftime.

The team will also perform with the band.

“It is very different, but I’m having fun with it,” said Palma.

To get ready for the football home opener on Sept. 9, Palma and her teammates have been training six days a week.

“The team is very welcoming. We’ve done bonding activities like a scavenger hunt,” stated Palma. “I haven’t met everyone yet, but is fun to be on a new team.”

Merrimack holds tryouts for their dance teams, but Palma was actually recruited during her senior year at CHS. After meeting Coach Alina Porzio on her visit to the campus, she was asked to apply for the squad.

“You had to submit a video with different skills. You had to put in two dances,” explained Palma. “The coach would tell me if she wanted me or I could be asked to come back (for the tryout). Fortunately, I was offered a spot.”

In a Zoom meeting, she spoke with Porzio and Assistant Bella Agnoletti about the team. Both women danced while attending Merrimack.

“They are really nice and good coaches,” added Palma.

Being around coaches and teammates is one of her favorite aspects of dance. As a member of the Eastman Dance Company for the last four years, Palma enjoyed helping her team reach American Dance Award Nationals.

Last year in Hollywood, Florida, she contributed to a runner-up finish in the National Championship Dance Off. In July of this year, Palma was a contestant for America’s Senior Dancer of the Year in Providence, Rhode Island.

While in college, she plans to keep in close contact with her local friends.

“I’m still in their dance chats,” said Palma. “When I’m home, I’ll go back to the (Eastman) studio and see how everyone is doing.”

Palma feels that her dance experience has helped prepare her for a busy schedule this year. She has 30 dance workouts on a weekly basis at Merrimack, along with studying in the Nursing program.

“There is a dance studio on campus and I have to go there once a week, too,” added Palma. “I want to keep up dance and school work and continue to challenge myself.”



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