If there’s anything the world needs right now, it’s a viral gymnastics routine to soothe our souls. Nia Dennis, a senior member of the University of California, Los Angeles Bruins gymnastics team, dominated social media this weekend when a video of her floor routine during a competition against Arizona State University went viral.
The official video of Dennis’ routine, shared by the UCLA Athletics YouTube page on Sunday, first shows her taking the floor in a shimmering blue leotard, taking a knee and raising her fist in the air as Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” begins to play. Following a series of sharp poses — and a quick Nae Nae — Dennis runs onto the mat with back-to-back flips, until she lands to thunderous applause. She then demonstrates some Greek life-inspired stepping to Missy Elliot’s “Pass That Dutch,” some fun hip and shoulder work to Dem Franchize Boyz’ “Everytime Tha Beat Drops,” and falls into Soulja’s Boy’s “Crank That” dance — after three more consecutive backflips.
Between her midair splits and a few heel toes, Dennis walked away from the competition with a score of 9.95. The score, according to the UCLA Gymnastics team Twitter page, clinched her win in the competition. And inspired a lot of Black girl magic, too.
UCLA Gymnastics continued to hype up Dennis after her announcing her winning score, captioning the video of her routine “This is what #blackexcellence looks like. @DennisNia does it again!” During her post-competition interview, Dennis revealed the three main inspirations behind her 2021 routine.
“This routine definitely reflects everything that I am today as a woman, and of course I had to incorporate a lot of parts of my culture,” she told reporters. “I wanted to give a tribute to my father. He’s greek, he was in fraternities, and stepping is really big [...] I wanted to have a dance party because that’s my personality and of course I had to shout out LA because we out here, UCLA.” Dennis also echoed her appreciation for Black Greek life and Black culture in her Instagram post reflecting on her performance on Monday.
But the unique routine is no surprise coming from Dennis, who should now be accustomed to going viral. Last year, when she performed a Beyonce “Homecoming”-inspired routine during a competition against the University of Utah — a routine what earned a 9.975 and 20 million views — Dennis became a tour de force in the world of gymnastics. The now-famous routine was set to Queen Bey’s 2018 Coachella performance soundtrack, including classics like “Lose My Breath,” “Crazy in Love,” and “Ego”— and saw Dennis putting on an imaginary crown, doing shoulder shimmies and mimicking Beyonce’s “Homecoming” moves throughout her routine. She was later invited onto The Ellen DeGeneres Show to perform the same routine.
But before she was known for her viral floor routines, Dennis was a member of the U.S. National gymnastics team from 2013 to 2015. She was also a 2018 NCAA team champion, the 2019 First-Team All-American on bars, and a four-time All-Pac-12 honoree, according to her UCLA roaster profile. On the academic front, Dennis is a senior sociology major and plans on becoming a physical therapist following graduation.
In case her bio wasn't impressive enough, both of Dennis' viral moments came after a debilitating 2016 injury to her Achilles tendon. Since then, she said that she realizes: “because one dream is gone doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop myself from achieving the rest of my dreams.”