By Rachel Langlois
Last football season, some of the most talented players could only be found on the sidelines. They never put a point on the scoreboard, but they were stars of the victory dance. These players wore the typical uniform of spandex pants, except with shimmer.
The Cougarettes? game plays included dazzling smiles, syncopated pirouettes and kick lines. They scored touchdowns by supporting the team and generating crowd participation.
?They are inspiration to all of us to cheer louder and show more spirit for our school team,? said Eric Ryan, a BYU fan from Allen, Texas.
But behind the sequins and spandex seen at football and basketball games are many hours of rehearsal and one of the hardest auditions at BYU.
Dancers audition for more than just the opportunity to promote athlete and crowd spirit during gameplay and in half-time shows. Dancers vie for the chance to perform and compete as a Cougarette.
?This was my dream, to be a Cougarette,? said Erin Jacobs, a Cougarette dance captain. ?It?s something I desired my entire life. Growing up watching them perform made me want it, and when I got into BYU it was possible.?
Being a Cougarette carries a lot of responsibility. With the title comes ?an awesome, awesome reputation,? said Chelsey Donelson, another Cougarette dance captain. Growing up dancing, she heard of the talented Cougarettes long before she knew about BYU.
This reputation began to develop in 1946, when there was a lack of women?s athletic programs at BYU, said Jodi Maxfield, artistic director of the Cougarettes. In order to create a way for women to participate, Maxfield said the Cougarettes were formed to support the existing athletic teams.
With feature concerts and national collegiate competitions, the Cougarettes do much more than what is witnessed at athletic games. They are not just pom-pom spirit leaders, but highly skilled precision dancers. The Cougarettes are trained extensively in jazz, ballet, and modern, said Maxfield. Even with their strong dance backgrounds, Maxfield expects the dancers to expand their repertoire to become fluid in hip-hop, funk, lyrical, character, high kick, and military.
Along with being talented performers, the Cougarettes are expected to set an example for other students and dancers. Maxfield said that one goal of the Cougarettes is to center each of their lives on Christ.
?Most of the dancers have danced their whole lives,? Maxfield said, ?But dancing as a Cougarette allows the spirit to be incorporated into something they?ve always known.?
Donelson said the love she has for team members and the spirit she feels dancing are the reasons she dedicates so much time serving as a dance captain.
During competitions, the Cougarettes set an example off the stage, but also on stage when all the judges are watching.
?You don?t have to resort to the sleazy and tawdry to win,? Maxfield said. ?We go to dance.?
They go to dance, and with numerous awards and high ratings, they must do it well. As four-time National Collegiate Dance Team champions, the Cougarettes have had many opportunities to be examples and to share what they believe. Maxfield said competitions are a great time for missionary work. She said many lasting friendships have resulted, some through the use of pass along cards.
In a continued effort as role models for LDS dancers, the Cougarettes will be sponsoring a workshop Saturday, which will prepare dancers for auditions and solo performances.
For additional information and workshop registration please visit www.byucougarettes.com.