In March of 2015, former Her Campus Tulane writer Lexie Ziegler published a profile on the captain of Tulane’s Shockwave Dance Team, Annie Cuccia. Cuccia, a senior who was about to graduate with degrees in Psychology and Sociology, sat with Ziegler to discuss her plans for the future and reflect on her time as a member of Shockwave and the Tulane community. 5 years later, Cuccia is now the head coach of Shockwave, instilling dedication and perseverance into her dancers despite the challenges being thrown at her by a global pandemic. I sat down up with Cuccia to ask her about her life since graduation, her plans for the new and improved Shockwave, and the trials and successes of being a coach during COVID-19. This interview has been edited for clarity.
Besides coaching, what have you done since you graduated from Tulane?
I have started a teaching certification program, and I [currently] teach dance at a dancing school in Metairie. I [also] got my master’s at Tulane, in Science and Pharmacology, from the Tulane Medical School [and] I worked as a pharmacy tech.
How does it feel progressing from co-captain to captain, to now being the head coach of Shockwave?
It’s kind of surreal. Like I don’t think it’s really set in yet, you know? It started in 2011 when I joined the team, and now it’s been 9 years, so to progress that far in nine years, I feel like that’s really awesome.
Did you ever see yourself as or want to be a head coach when you were co-captain?
Back then, I didn’t think that that would even be a possibility. I didn’t know exactly where my life was going to go at that point, but as I got older, I definitely saw it as something I would want to do, coaching a team at any level, college, high school, or middle school. I still feel like I am waiting on someone to come and say “Nope, it’s time to go. Someone else is here [to replace me]”.
Between when you graduated and when you became coach, how were you involved with Shockwave?
I served as the unofficial assistant coach, so I would help the head coach with any practices that she needed, I went to an away game [with the team] and filled in for any games [that the head coach could not attend].
Looking back at your time at Tulane, and specifically on Shockwave, what would you say was your favorite memory?
One of the really fun things was dancing with Beyoncé in the Super Bowl. [Another] memory that I have is my very last game at Tulane stadium my senior year, [where] I got to finish it out with my friends and just really appreciate the school and all of the opportunities that I’ve had. The very last time you get on the field, it’s… I can’t even describe the feeling, it’s like this has to be the best game ever because this is it, this is the only chance I get, this is the last one.
We went to one bowl game, it was pretty fun, [but we lost] so that part wasn’t very fun. It was [a great experience] going from like 2-10 the first two years that I was here to [becoming] bowl eligible. That game was really cool, the 6th game that we won (the minimum number of games you need to be bowl-eligible and attend a bowl game) we were still in the Superdome, and all of the football players had gotten little plastic bowls, and they started throwing them into the stands, so that was really memorable.
(Photo courtesy of Ali Robinson. Cuccia, very back, is pictured with some former Shockwave dancers)
Overall, how has Shockwave influenced your life?
I feel like Shockwave has helped develop my leadership skills and really helped me speak up for both myself and the girls on the team whenever they need anything. I can [now] walk in a room and not be scared, or timid, or worry about anything. I can stand in front of a group of people and [have confidence], I mean you’re going out in front of thousands of people all the time, and you’ve got to go out there and do your best. For Shockwave, if you mess up in front of a crowd, everyone sees, everyone knows, so I feel like I always have to go out and do my best so I can leave a good image.
How do you balance coaching and your personal life, especially since you are now engaged?
So, I’m someone who has always been busy, I thrive off of being super busy, and so [I am] the busier the better. So, I really like it, it’s not super difficult, I kind of just do what I got to do as I go throughout my day.
How do you see dance teams, and namely Shockwave evolving in the future? Do you see the potential for males joining the team?
I really hope that Shockwave grows and reaches its full potential. Ideally, I would love for [the team] to be able to compete and be more well-known nationally because [they’re] known locally, but I would like to be a name brand, for people to say “I want to go to Tulane and I want to be on the dance team”.
We’ve never had a male try out for Shockwave, not that it’s been discouraged, we just haven’t received an audition. I would be open if a male wanted to [audition].
Obviously, you’re a new coach in the middle of unprecedented times, so what has been the hardest part of coaching so far?
I think the hardest part is that, when you think about the dance team, you think about everything you want to accomplish for the team and to know that that’s not going to happen, [that] no one is going to have that first game and [perform] all of the dances that we do (Note to reader: during football game days, Shockwave performs with the marching band before the game, during the halftime performance, and performs their own piece during the third quarter of the game). It’s rolling with the punches, adapting and being flexible is the hardest part because I want [the team] to be able to do everything they normally do, and I want [them] to have all of these opportunities and all of these experiences, and knowing that [they] can’t have that [is difficult]. Now with COVID-19, [the team] can’t do all these things, and I just feel bad.
How are you preparing Shockwave during this global pandemic?
A lot of our communication is through group chats, email, and Zoom, so if there is any information that needs to get out, I use those three outlets. In-person time is strictly for learning choreography and perfecting it. Being super flexible for what girls need and understanding that this year is different so our learning style is a little different, but we’re doing the best that we can.
Although COVID is a big concern, what do you have planned for Shockwave that readers can expect to see soon?
We’re going to be filming dances from ProAction that are hip-hop, jazz, and pom routines. They are going to be [published] on social media, and we are also going to have social media takeover days, where our girls take over our accounts. You’re also going to see us doing “Fight Song”, and halftime shows with the band. Anytime that we can get out there and flood your social media, we will be there to make a presence and cheer on our Green Wave.
Based on your experience, what is one piece of advice you would give to current Shockwave members or any Tulane student, for that matter?
In general, really just appreciate all the experiences that you have and make the most of your time here. It goes by so fast and before you know it, you’re graduating and you don’t want to look back and wish that you had done things differently, so take all that you can and make great friendships while you are here.
While Shockwave is not currently performing at Tulane home football games due to COVID-19 regulations, they are hard at work perfecting their dances and preparing for the day when they will be back in Yulman Stadium.
To read Lexie Ziegler’s original interview with Annie Cuccia, click the link below.
Keep up with your Shockwave Dance Team through their various social media accounts:
Tik Tok: @tulaneshockwave
Facebook: Tulane Shockwave Dance Team