UCLA gymnasts are at it again. In a floor routine paying tribute to Black culture and UCLA’s home base of Los Angeles, Nia Dennis thrilled the crowd and judges with a personal and effervescent performance, delivering a victory over Arizona State — and a wave of social media appreciation for her artistry.
Dennis’ performance came on Saturday, Jan. 23, as the final floor routine of the program’s season opener at home in Westwood, L.A.
Like her former teammate Katelyn Ohashi, who became a sensation in January 2019 with her joyous performance of a mashup of Earth, Wind and Fire, Janet and Michael Jackson, and Tina Turner, Dennis, a senior at UCLA, did not hold back in blending self-expression with technical skill. Dennis’ routine paid tribute to her father with some Greek life-inspired stepping while also mixing in pop culture staples like “the woah” among old-school gymnastics moves, soundtracked by Beyoncé, Tupac Shakur, Missy Elliott, Soulja Boy and Megan Thee Stallion. All in under 2 minutes.
“snappin,” Missy Elliott wrote on Twitter. Simone Biles, the four-time Olympic champion in women’s gymnastics, wrote “okay @DennisNia do the damn thing girl this was so fun to watch! keep killing it!”
Dennis’ innovative routine infused the demanding sport with more than a little #blackexcellence.
“This routine definitely reflects everything that I am today as a woman,” Dennis said to the Los Angeles Daily News, “and of course I had to incorporate a lot of parts of my culture. I wanted to have a dance party because that’s my personality and of course I had to shout out L.A. because we out here, UCLA.”
Dennis vaunted to social media stardom last year as well with a Beyoncé-inspired floor routine you can watch below.
A homecoming performance that would make @Beyonce proud! @DennisNia made us lose our breath with her 9.975 on floor exercise last weekend in Pauley.— UCLA Gymnastics (@uclagymnastics) February 28, 2020
Who else is crazy in love with her routine? pic.twitter.com/XE4VvTrZOK
UCLA women’s gymnastics has long had a reputation for creativity and self-expression, particularly under former coach Valorie Kondos Field, who retired after the 2018-19 season. That tradition now continues under Chris Waller, a UCLA alum and former gymnast himself.
Photo and video courtesy UCLA Gymnastics on Twitter