Road to the game: A look into the lives of the North Texas Dancers

Road to the game: A look into the lives of the North Texas Dancers

Road to the game: A look into the lives of the North Texas Dancers
September 06
11:00 2018

It is well over 90 degrees, and the added humidity makes the air both sticky and hot, prompting most people to stay inside and blast the air-conditioner. This is not the case for the North Texas Dancers, however.

The group of dancers are on the field at Apogee Stadium dancing with smiles on their faces, all the while sharing the field with the Green Brigade marching band, preparing to run through its routine before the first game of the football season.

Captain and psychology junior Joslyn Love, who just started her third year on the team, leads the Dancers through varying formations and routines throughout the afternoon.

This kind of extensive rehearsal, in which they go through every detail down to the national anthem, is reserved for Wednesdays — but the rest of the week entails more work.

“We have workouts on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6 or 8 a.m.,” Love said. “You can choose whichever one works best with your schedule.”

The team is split into two squads: green and white, each having separate practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“Everyone practices together on Wednesdays,” Love said. “We have tryouts for all our routines, and then we come out here with a band and the cheerleaders and [do] a game day run-through. Then we will meet back up on Saturdays a little bit before the game, do all the pregame festivities — tailgate, all that stuff — and then it’s game time.”

Love said she has to remain in-check for all of her commitments concerning school and the team to correctly balance the two.

“I have to schedule everything out,” Love said. “I look at my classes [and] see what needs to be done that day. From [there] I make sure it is doable — like, ‘OK, I have practice this day, so is this work really something I could get done this day?'”

Love first developed an interest in dance during her freshman year of high school. From then on, she has continued to pursue her passion.

“My sister was on the dance team in her high school, so seeing her made me be like, ‘I want to try it out,'” Love said. “My freshman year, [I] tried out for the team [and] made it, did it all four years, [then] decided to come to [UNT and] try out for their dance team.”

Another strong pillar for the group is co-captain Téa Jaime. The human development and family science senior said stepping into her role this year has given her a new perspective on being a North Texas Dancer.

“Being a captain and a leader for the team, you have to be more prepared,” Jaime said. “You have to be willing to take extra time out of your day other than just practice to help the team, help coach and just get ready.”

As an avid sports fan, being a member of the North Texas Dancers allowed Jaime to support UNT’s teams.

“I love sports, and I love dancing and cheering on Mean Green,” Jaime said. “Sports are just a way for the university to get involved and cheer on other students.”

In addition to practicing routines, Jaime and the rest of the Dancers practice overall good health to prepare before games.

“We have to be healthy,” Jaime said. “You cannot be eating out the day before a game or even the week of a game — we always are kind of strict on that. You just have to get sleep, you can’t be out all the time [and] you have to take care of your body just like a normal student athlete, like a basketball player or football player would.”

Taking preventative measures to combat injuries and maintaining stamina also helps them to stay on top of their game.

“We have our training that we do for workouts to help get us ready,” Love said. “Any time we feel like something doesn’t feel right [or if] we just want to get something checked out, we go to our trainer.”

They may not be playing on the field, but being a North Texas Dancer requires athleticism and discipline just as other sports do.

“Dance is a sport,” Love said. “We do a lot of different things that incorporate our bodies. We have competitions [that are] like jazz or hip-hop or contemporary [dance]. We do different genres, and it requires a lot more technique and harder choreography than what you would see on a game day.”

As captain of the Dancers, Love hopes that fans and students realize the extent of the team’s role in the football and basketball seasons.

“We’re more than just pretty faces,” Love said. “We go out there, we work hard, we dance. We’re here to entertain everyone, yes, but we are more than just a pretty face on the sideline trying to entertain the crowd whenever a football game or basketball game isn’t on.”

Jaime said the upcoming season is a chance to showcase growth within the team.

“Last year we really just started rebuilding,” Jaime said. “We got a new coach, and we’re really trying to turn the program around. This year is our time. We are stepping it up, and we are showing UNT who we are, what we can do and what we bring to the table.”

Gameday

The Dancers and the Green Brigade are all on the Apogee field again. Except now, the stands are a sea of green, filled with fans cheering on the Mean Green. Everything runs its course just as it did during rehearsal on Wednesday but with an added buzz of energy both on and off the field.

“The student section really helps,” Jaime said. “Whenever they are cheering, it keeps us hype and it keeps us wanting to dance. Whenever the football team is doing well, it really amps up the energy and it makes it easy — but it is easy to do what you love to do.”

The crowd’s excitement is something that made her first game as a North Texas Dancer two years ago memorable.

“It was really exhilarating,” Jaime said. “All the fans just made it so fun. My favorite part was whenever the football team came out [and] we were doing the fight song because everybody just cheered so loud for them.”

Behind the sidelines where the North Texas Dancers keeps the crowd entertained, the football team works together on the field to defeat its opponent. At their spot on the sidelines, the girls remain equally in sync, periodically looking to Love and other members for cues on what routine to start.

The connection they have during the game extends to times off the field, as Love equates being a part of the team to being a part of a “sisterhood.”

“We have our team-bonding activities that we do to get us closer together,” Love said. “During practice we work hard, but we have our fun moments. Something goofy might happen — somebody might accidentally do something — and you just laugh it off. That is a great way to bond with each other and with our coach.”

Coach Brittani Richards, who has been directing the team for more than a year, multitasks during the game. She can often be spotted taking photos and videos of the team on her phone, telling them when to engage the crowd, updating them on the status of the game and offering encouragement — all at the same time. The dancers rarely stop moving, and neither does she — she paces around adorned in a glittery fanny pack and aviator glasses while directing them.

“My relationship with Coach [Richards] is really good,” Jaime said. “She is obviously my coach before she is our friend, but she is really motivating. She always makes sure that we are taken care of first and that we are doing well in school, as well as dance.”

Richards places heavy importance on being aware of all aspects of the Dancers’ lives.

“I believe my biggest role as a coach is to help nurture the growth of my athletes both athletically and academically throughout their collegiate dance careers,” Richards said.

Richards began teaching dance at the age of 14, and her drive to mentor other dancers has only grown.

“My favorite thing about coaching is the relationships that I get to make with my athletes that transcend beyond our program and their time in college,” Richards said. “It truly makes my heart smile to see them chase their dreams.”

After the 46-23 win last Saturday against the Southern Methodist University Mustangs, Richards hopes the North Texas Dancers continue to progress along with the football team.

“I would like see my team continue to help re-brand and rebuild our program to become one of the elite collegiate dance teams,” Richards said. “This is a big long-term goal, but all the small goals that we accomplish this season will continue to take us in the right direction.”

Featured Image: Junior Taylor Hudson leads her squad and cheers in support of the Mean Green during the first game of the season. Jessika Hardy

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Nikki Johnson-Bolden

Nikki Johnson-Bolden

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