NAU Dance: Never seen like this

Half of the NAU Dance Team stands in their game lines, preparing to do a routine to start practice in the Health and Learning Center, Sept. 20.

The NAU Dance Team is back and better than ever, performing and cheering at Lumberjack sports events. Team captain, Lexie Curry is leading the team to its best performances yet — and during her sophomore year. Dancers have created a new image, adding more pom and hip-hop styles to the choreography. 

“In the past years, the dances have been very strict, formal and prissy-pretty, and now we are showing a different side of us,” sophomore Skylar Lehman said. 

To create new pieces for every performance, dancers and their leaders have contributed 20-plus hours weekly to collaborating with one another. Meanwhile, Curry said the crowd is passionate, screaming from the stands during and after their performances. 

Due to previous COVID-19 restrictions, the dance team has been eager to take the field this year, and members worked hard to ensure they could dance their hearts out. At their first performance at NAU’s opening football game against Sam Houston State, the audience’s reactions fueled these dancers and made them feel as if they blacked out. They described it as walking on and off the field without any recollection of the invigorating performance. 

Nobody is more excited than football players, coaches and athletic directors to have the dance team back, cheering them on. 

“They are really supportive and love having us there to interact and feed off our energy,” Curry said. “The teams have encouraging interactions and are excited for each other’s accomplishments during performances and games.” 

Curry, Lehman and sophomore Montana Hamlin, all attended the NAU-UArizona football game on Sept. 18, along with three other returning dancers. This was a moment the dancers, players and fans would never forget. Curry described their disbelief. 

“We were looking at the scoreboard — there was a picture of us — and we were stressed out hoping the score would stay put,” Curry said. 

NAU beat the Wildcats for the first time since 1932, and a win that big certainly warranted a celebration from the dance team.

“When it hit the third quarter and we were still winning … it was a big shock, and it’s still settling in,” Hamlin said. “It was something the fans didn’t think would ever happen, and the team walked away with victory.” 

This semester, the dance team has immersed itself in the new choreography. The “cookie-cutter dances,” as Lehman described, are not what this team is focused on anymore; instead, they plan to make risky choices in their practices and routines until they are perfected. 

By adding popular styles such as pom and hip-hop, Curry said the dancers want to entertain the crowd and become unique performers for years to come. 

“We have a lot to prove to show how much we want this,” Hamlin said. “I think people just see us as some dance club, but we’re not. We are full-time students and full-time athletes with young leaders, so it takes a lot. We have put in enough time and years to also be considered real athletes.” 

After a year with no football games, national competitions or social events, the dancers can finally return to in-person instruction and more typical interactions. With national collegiate competition coming in February 2022, the NAU dancers are excited to show off new members with versatile dance training. Lehman said they are working hard to match the fire and technique of the other squads they will compete against. 

Only one member of the dance team competed in nationals previously —junior Maddie Witten — so members are looking to her for all the help they can get. Studying previous video performances is how new dancers will learn to match the levels of returners, Hamlin explained. 

The young dancers are proving themselves every day in their successes and aspirations to win future titles. Even when they are practicing and performing diligently, the team needs all the support it can get from followers of NAU sports. Furthermore, Curry said in order to be more involved with athletics, receiving invitations to events is high on the team’s list of priorities. 

This year, the NAU Dance Team will host fundraising opportunities needed to generate financial backing. The team will have the ability to support the football and basketball teams at home games, and cheer for them at certain away games as well. It has been challenging, but Hamlin said they are making this year the best possible experience for incoming and returning dancers.

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