Coordination, rhythm, flexibility, focus. These words do not typically describe the average “dancer” as they flail about, making fools of themselves in a bizarre ritual on the dance floor. Instead, these words describe real athletes who, when they step on the court, bring poise and a singularly enthusiastic attitude with them.
The dance team is part of the UC Davis Spirit Squad along with the cheer team, and the difference between the two is subtle. They both share the court or field, and cheer with the student sections and crowds. But where cheer usually leads their own show, dance will typically model their mid-game routines around the bands’ musical numbers.
The dance team also does not have a coach, and is instead run by the co-captains, seniors Marissa Lebrett and Sarah Worrell.
“Our biggest goal for the team was to have a fun year, and for everyone to just enjoy themselves and enjoy being on the team, and so far we’ve had success with that,” said Lebrett. “Everyone loves being on the team, performing at games and things like that, and so we just want to keep that up, keep it on a positive note and keep it fun.”
Choreography is completely team-created, though mostly by senior members who are more familiar with the team’s dance style.
During their performances, they are less concerned about the outcome of the game than they are about nailing their routines. With every tune the band plays, the team has to coordinate among itself – sometimes from across the court using hand signals – so they end up doing the same dance. Halftime shows provide them an outlet for their creative inclinations, letting them show off complicated dances or collaborative bits with the band or cheer.
The dance team travels to nearby stadiums like Reno, Sac State, Stanford and even Cal Poly for the football season, and travel to the Big West Tournament held in Anaheim for basketball.
Like the players they cheer for, the UC Davis dancers have to endure their fair share of unfavorable conditions. Showing up hours before a football game is taxing, and they can experience climates that ranges from blistering heat to biting cold. Though the perfectly regulated temperature of a basketball game creates a pleasant experience, sometimes the atmosphere just isn’t the same.
“My favorite part of the football game is marching from the Pavilion area over to the football stadium with the band,” said Lebrett. “We perform for the tailgaters, and there are people cheering at us and it’s just a really fun environment. You don’t really get that at basketball [games].”
Recently, however, this has started to shift. With the Aggie basketball team doing so well in their season, more and more fans have been making it out to the games. Especially with the televised ESPN games that host about double the amount of fans than usual, the fervor of the student section is notably intense.
This is a nice contrast to previous seasons experienced by the Aggies, when neither basketball or football performed as well.
“We just always stay positive, stay smiling,” said Lebrett. “That’s our job, to try to keep the crowd as positive as possible, which is easy this year, so that’s good.”
But in the midst of hardship and insurmountable odds, whatever accomplishments are gained are that much more appreciated. Take, for example, when the Aggies beat Cal Poly in a heated football game during the fall season.
“We were in Cal Poly and everyone was pretty, you know, rowdy and rude,” said Worrell. “But we won, so it was a lot of fun.”
Though their official obligations end with basketball, they will sometimes support additional teams, going out to cheer for other athletics like baseball, volleyball and soccer.
The dance team gives back to the community in more ways than one. Twice a year they host the Aggiette Clinic (along with the cheer team in the fall), and provide kids ages 5-13 an opportunity to perform at a basketball or football game. These young Aggies play games and are taught a routine and dance technique.
“At half time we perform with the little kids,” said Worrell. “[This fall] we had a lot of [kids] at football, so it was a little bit crazy.”
The team is getting ready for their end-of-the-year showcase on April 11. Serving in place of competition, which they occasionally go to, depending on the leanings of the team, the showcase serves to help fund the team and allows them to perform styles of dance other than jazz and hip hop. This year, it will be held at the Richard Brunelle Performance Hall at Davis Senior High School and is open to the public.
The dance team’s tryouts for the 2015-16 school year are May 16. For locals who can make it, the in-person tryout gives the opportunity to attend clinics during the two weeks preceding the actual audition. They will be taught routines, and will spend time on technique as well as what might occur on tryout day.
Submitting a video audition requires a minute-long hip hop routine, a minute jazz routine and a few other tricks specified on their website.
The UC Davis dance team is an integral part of the Aggie sporting experience, and they will always be there, rain or shine, with big smiles on their faces, cheering on their team. The UC Davis Dance team can be seen at the next home women’s basketball game on Feb. 8.