By Rosalie Westenskow
A homemade, purple sign holds a place of prominence in the Cougarettes” rehearsal studio and contains the secret to the team”s success and unique legacy; it admonishes: “PrACTice like Champions.”
As the 2005 National Dance Association Champions and the 2006 USA National Dance Team Champions, the Cougarettes have proven that they both practice and act like champions.
This weekend, the team celebrates its award-winning year and its 60th anniversary with “Cougarettes in Concert.” The performance features a wide variety of dance, including hip-hop, character and lyrical jazz dance, as well as a piece performed by Cougarette alumni.
Although most BYU students may associate the Cougarettes with gold pom-poms and performances at football and basketball games, members of the team insist they are dancers first and cheerleaders second.
“Most of us never touched pom-poms until we were Cougarettes,” said Erin Richardson, a junior majoring in marriage, family and human development. “It”s an added bonus to perform at basketball games and football games, but the type of dancing we do at the concert is what we love to do and have trained to do.”
The many-faceted elements of Cougarette performances, whether at sporting events, formal concerts or competitions, require team members to be able to adapt well to different genres. This year, in addition to the usual dance styles performed by the Cougarettes, the concert will feature a tap number, in which about half the team will perform.
Audience members at “Cougarettes in Concert” will also get to see exactly how the Cougarettes won Nationals last year, as the program includes the routine they performed at the championship. “Silent Dolls,” a compilation of hip hop and jazz dance, also won a choreography award at last year”s competition.
“It”s got some very stunning tricks that are incorporated into the dance that just make the audience roar,” said Jodi Maxfield, the team”s director.
The concert also features the premier performance of the routine the team plans to perform next month at Nationals.
The impending competition places a lot of pressure on the Cougarettes to keep their position as No.1. In 2004, the team won fifth place, meaning the expectations for the team were not as high last year as they are this year.
“There”s more pressure just because we”re defending a title,” team member Richardson said.
Nationals take place every year in Daytona Beach, Fla., and around 250 universities compete. Each school must submit a videotape showcasing a high enough skill level before the competition will even allow a team to attend.
BYU competes in the large dance category, with about 40 other universities.
The competition is an opportunity for the Cougarettes not only to perform and compete, but it also gives team members a chance to share their beliefs with others.
“One of the big things for us at Nationals is to be a good example,” said Maddie Horsley, president of the Cougarettes. “For a lot of these girls [from other schools], this is the only contact they”ll ever have with the church.”
Last year, the Cougarettes gave the other teams at the competition small good-luck gifts, each of which contained a pass-along card from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
At competitions, the team tries to demonstrate their beliefs through their dancing and their demeanor.
“The dancing [at competitions] can be really seductive sometimes and we definitely try to avoid that at all costs,” said Horsley, a junior majoring in art history.
The efforts made by the team seem to be relaying the desired message to their audiences.
“A lot of people say that there”s something different about us,” said Richardson, a third-year Cougarette. “Usually they say, ”We don”t know what it is,” but we [the Cougarettes] know what it is and it”s that we are dancing with the Spirit.”
The team will perform “Cougarettes in Concert” Mar. 15-18, 2006, at 7:30 p.m. in room 166 of the Richards Building. Tickets cost $10. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 422-4322 or visit