After stunning the internet with a Beyoncé-laden routine just last February, Nia Dennis went viral again, this time, with a hip-hop-influenced floor exercise that rang as a tribute to Black culture.
Last weekend, Dennis took the mat for UCLA in a meet against rival Arizona State University, executing a routine that began with a raised fist and incorporated music from the likes of 2Pac, Kendrick Lamar, and Soulja Boy.
As she flipped and soared, Dennis included some amazingly innovative moves that correlated perfectly to her chosen medley. She paid tribute to the step dancing of Black fraternities and sororities, implemented some West Coast street dancing, and threw in a Crip Walk for good measure. The judges awarded her a 9.95 and ULCA won the competition. Dennis, a senior, also led the Bruins with 9.9 in the vault as they opened their season with a victory over a Pac-12 rival.
The reaction on social media was uproarious, and Dennis unsurprisingly was showered with praise.
Video of the routine has already garnered more than 100,000 likes on Twitter. Fellow gymnast Simone Biles also commended Dennis with a supportive tweet, saying, “Okay @DennisNia do the damn thing girl this was so fun to watch! Keep killing it!”
When asked about her crowd-pleasing routines at a UCLA Athletics news conference, Dennis said, “I wanted to have a dance party because that’s my personality.”
She also noted that the stepping in her routine was in honor of her father’s involvement in Greek life. “I wanted to give a tribute to my father. He’s Greek, he was in fraternities, and stepping is really big.”
Dennis has previously discussed her penchant for partying on the gym floor, and revealed on UCLA Athletics’ YouTube show “Bruin Banter” that she gets plenty of inspiration and assistance from volunteer assistant coach BJ Das, a professional dancer who has performed live with Beyoncé, Pink, and Usher.
“It’s been really amazing,” she said in the video. “She’s provided a lot of different styles and a lot of different moves that I can work with and different things that I can try, especially moves that I’m not really comfortable with, breaking me out of my comfort zone a little bit, which I think is really cool.”
The experimentation has clearly worked out in her favor, as Dennis has become a fan favorite, and she feeds off the crowd energy, which inspires her to produce an unforgettable routine.
“I love the energy; we love a floor party,” she added. “I love when the crowd gets super loud, because then I feel like we can all just rock out and have the biggest dance party in the world.”