BY HALLIE KEIPER
Before Drake University’s dance team became what it is today – an energetic group of 14 women doing what they love for the benefit of Drake’s athletic department and student sections – the team was competition-based.
Drake senior Courtney Jasper, one of two dance team captains, helped kickstart the change between these two styles in the way the team was organized.
“We were running one dance over and over and over [for our competition],” Jasper said. “It got kind of repetitive and boring so instead, we’re working on dances the school will actually be able to see at basketball games and things like that, whereas when we competed, nobody at Drake really got to see what we were doing, which was a bummer.”
The dance team now performs at all home football and basketball games, performing both a short combo either before the game or during a break, as well as additional cheers and dances throughout the game to hype up the crowd. For many women on the team, these moments of interacting with the crowd are a main part of the reason they love performing at games.
“When you make eye contact with someone in the crowd, and you can just pump up and go, ‘Yeah! Let’s go!’ is probably my favorite part of games,” said Layne Burdette, first-year Drake student and Drake dance team member.
Dance team members and fans are not the only ones who agree that Drake’s dance team brings something special to the table. Ore Arogundade, a senior basketball player, believes that the dance team is an important aspect of the game and benefits the fans greatly.
“It’s more for the fans’ enjoyment, because we gotta stay focused at the task at hand,” Arogundade said. “But it’s really good entertainment for [the fans], and for the dancers as well, to have fun out there and to go out in front of a big crowd and dance what they rehearsed and are passionate about.”
Arogundade also noted that members of the dance team often are misunderstood but believes that the dance team deserves the utmost respect.
“There’s a lot of misconceptions, like, oh, dancing’s not really a thing, but it is,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for their craft and what they do. It’s not easy. It’s just like any other sport. It’s hard.”
Jasper and Burdette both reaffirmed this fact, noting that the dance team’s athletes are skilled and auditions are selective. The team takes only 18 of the best dancers each year, though commonly 25-40 students tryout.
Though the dancers are talented and the dances require a large amount of attention, the team comes second to academics, a value that is essential to the dance team.
“It is very much academics first and other more important priorities as well, so dance team is really good about balancing that which is really nice,” Burdette said.
Auditioning for the Drake Dance Team take place every spring and fall, and the women encourage everyone passionate about dancing and team spirit to try out.
“It’s just a lot of fun, it’s a great group of girls, so it’s fun to just get to dance alongside of them,” Jasper said, smiling. “It just feels good!”