North Texas Daily

Cheer, dance to take on Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Cheer, dance to take on Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Cheer, dance to take on Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
November 17
12:00 2022

For the first time in both programs’ history, the North Texas cheer and dance teams are bringing the Mean Green spirit to New York City to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The teams will spend seven days in the city participating in mock auditions, fine-tuning choreography and sightseeing. 

“We will be with the cheer team a lot because we [are a] united spirit group,” dance head coach Brittani McLaurin said. “We are just really excited to share Mean Green spirit […] in New York.”

Cheer head coach Tracie O’Neal has led the cheer squad for 12 years. A North Texas alum and former captain of the dance team, O’Neal said she grew up watching the parade and wants her team to make the most of the experience.

The North Texas Dancers practice on Nov. 15, 2022. Photo by Maria Crane

Both teams, although separate entities, operate as spirit groups in the Division of Student Affairs. Each season, the squads perform at sporting events, serve as student ambassadors, engage in community service, attend camps and compete.

Juggling packed schedules while gearing up for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was a consistent factor for both groups.

“[The performance] is going to be super rewarding for us because […] this is probably the busiest part of our season with the crossover of basketball and football,” said Emma Leary, computer science senior and dance co-captain. “The most challenging part is the scheduling conflicts, but it’ll all be worth it.”

Before jumping into eight counts and formations, dance and cheer began with fundraising efforts to supplement funds from the university, sponsors and support from alums. The routines and rehearsal experiences, however, differ for each squad.

From cheer, viewers can anticipate “fast-paced” delivery of elite skills like basket tosses, cheerleader and kinesiology junior Lexi King said.

“I actually saw [the choreography] for the first time with my own eyes the other day and it’s definitely like there’s something going on every single second,” said Lauren Barrett, kinesiology senior and fourth-year cheerleader.

Jaci Price, communications senior and dance captain, said the dance squad’s choreography is “Broadway-inspired with a splash of Texas.”  Alongside cheer, the team will offer an “all-encompassing” display of traditional North Texas pom routines and chants.

North Texas cheer worked with award-winning choreographer Dahlston Delgado. The Belton, Texas native has more than 16 years of experience, appeared on Broadway’s “Bring It On” and curated choreography for high-performing squads like Navarro College’s team, as seen on Netflix’s “Cheer.”

Working with Delgado has been a rewarding experience because of his ability to create “fun” and “energetic” routines, said Jack Robinson, graduate student and fourth-year cheerleader.

“We love him and he’s been such a pleasure to work with,” said Kacey Boston, media arts junior and third-year cheerleader. “He is going to be there in New York with us and it is just really cool to see someone that you have looked up to come and choreograph your routine.”

 A unique challenge for the cheerleaders has been tailoring their routine to the concrete space in New York City. As a traditional game day squad, the team is accustomed to performing on turf and mats.

Photo Credit PhotoVille

“[Concrete] is a lot harder surface, so there’s not a lot of absorbing room,” Robinson said. “It’s a different skill for everyone.”

 O’Neal said despite the choreography’s intensity, cheer has performed their routine with no mistakes “back-to-back.”

“They have been handling it beautifully — I’ve been so proud of them,” O’Neal said. “I have full confidence that they’re going to execute.”

Traveling to New York City is a surreal moment for members across both squads. Shelby McFall, dance education senior and North Texas dancer who attended with her former junior college squad, is performing in the parade for a second time.

“It is still a fresh experience because it was so different when I went previously,” McFall said. “I did not dance as much as what we are doing now, so I am excited for the dance aspect of it.”

North Texas dancers are at a defining moment in the program and are continuing to “move up,” said Cameryn Stowers, senior and game day co-captain. Last season, the team competed in the pom Division IA for the first time and secured a second-place finish.

Some of the cheerleaders and dancers will sacrifice family time due to the performance but are leaning into the teams’ “supportive” cultures. Jaci, however, is taking on the trip in her final year with her teammate and sister, Jordyn Price.

“She is in her rookie year [on the team], so I’m very excited to do this experience with her,” Jaci said. “We’re here practicing every day and I’m mentoring her through, not only dance, but the entire collegiate lifestyle.”

McLaurin, who is in her sixth season at the university, said the trip is fulfilling a bucket list wish.

“Of course, I wish [my husband] would be there with me, but I have my extended family here within my dance team and coaching staff,” McLaurin said. 

A lifelong dancer, McLaurin said she’s proud of her team’s diverse culture. She was often one of few, if not the only African American on squads growing up.

“We are not just talking one specific race, but across the board all different backgrounds, cultures, experiences and appearances,” McLaurin said. 

O’Neal balances her coaching duties with her full-time job as national sales director at CC Dancewear, which provides uniforms for Spirit of America’s cheer groups. 

Last year, Spirit of America, which sent its first group of dancers to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1986, expressed interest in having North Texas dancers and cheerleaders join this year’s parade. From there, O’Neal said the process progressed organically.

Dance and cheer will sport North Texas gear for appearances prior to the parade. The squads will wear red, white and blue uniforms with “Macy’s” and the company’s signature star written on them during the event on Thanksgiving Day. 

The North Texas Daily met with the teams during early morning practices less than a week before they are set to travel to New York for the 96th edition of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The three-hour event will broadcast on NBC at 8 a.m. CST. The 2021 showing garnered more than 25 million viewers, according to Deadline.com.

“I want them to be successful, do well and have fun,” O’Neal said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Featured Image: Photo Credit PhotoVille (top) Photo Credit Travis Cobb (bottom)

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Rhema Joy Bell

Rhema Joy Bell

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