Cougarettes: much more than dancers

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Most students know the Cougarettes as the sequin-dressed and makeup-adorned group that performs at sporting events. On the surface, their M.O. may seem straightforward: dance routines to entertain the crowd. But for those involved, there’s a lot more to it than poms and jazz shoes.

The Cougarettes were founded in 1946, as a way for young women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to become involved. Throughout the years, the Cougarettes have evolved into a team of highly proficient dancers, strong leaders and a sisterhood in the gospel.

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The Cougarettes perform at a basketball game at the Marriott Center.
Joni Maxwell, artistic director and spirit coordinator of the Cougarettes, spoke about the immense talent of the team. Each year, anywhere from 80-150 young women audition for a coveted spot.

“Each girl auditions every year, even if returning,” Maxwell said. “This is a strong team of dancers who have trained their entire lives. They are good at what they do, they have brought home several national titles.”

Several national titles, a tradition of excellence at competitions, and last year, the Cougarettes won 1st place in the hip-hop division and 2nd place in the team dance division.

“It was our first year winning the hip-hop division,” Maxwell said. “Our goal this year is to win both divisions: hip-hop and team dance.”

Sarah Russo, 21, a dance major from Orem, spoke about the unity of the Cougarettes. As one of three captains, the dance team has become a kind of family to Russo.

“I love that every day I get to go and do something I love with people that I love,” she said. “You spend 10 or more hours a week with girls that you didn’t know before you got here and now they’re your closest friends.”

[pullquote]”It’s a spiritually uplifting program. It’s testimony building. I don’t think there’s another team like this one, honestly.”[/pullquote]

For Russo, being a part of the Cougarettes has been more than a spot on a dance team and more than any ordinary extracurricular activity.

“It’s a spiritually uplifting program,” she said. “It’s testimony building. I don’t think there’s another team like this one, honestly.”

Megan Phillips, 20, a humanities major from Sandy, shared the same feelings as Russo.

“We’ve created relationships and friendships and a sisterhood that is really special and rewarding,” she said. “It’s a lot of time and sacrifice, especially while trying to get an education. But being with the girls really is the best part.”

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Every year, the Cougarettes put on a show, “Cougarettes in Concert,” where they can show their often unseen talent.

“It’s a time where we can showcase what we really do,” Phillips said. “Often times people only see us at games, but in our show, we’re performing in an artistic way to express what we really love to do.”

“Cougarettes in Concert” features a variety of different dance styles and genres. From hip-hop to lyrical, jazz to contemporary, and even a Broadway number, the Cougarettes carry on the tradition built by previous generations.

“The Cougarettes before us have left a legacy of excellence,” said Phillips. “It’s an amazing opportunity for us to share BYU’s message and what makes us who we are. Having gospel knowledge defines the Cougarettes.”

“Cougarettes in Concert” premieres Thursday, Feb. 23, at 7:30 p.m. at The Covey Center in Provo. The show carries on through Saturday, Feb. 25, with an additional matinee performance on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $12-$15 and are available through The Covey Center website at www.coveycenter.org or at the box office.

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