She takes her place on the stage while the lights are low. The audience is quiet. She feels the energy of her teammates around her, and for one split second it is so still, she can hear her heart beat. As the lights go up and the music comes on, she dances with her whole heart and soul. She is a Cougarette.
For 68 years this performing team has made its mark at BYU. Some may remember the Cougarettes wearing tall white boots, marching with the school band and doing jump splits at the football games. While they are still seen cheering on the Cougar football team, they have gone on to become national and international dance champions. This technically beautiful, precision dance team is a force to be reckoned with.
“This is the dream job,” said Cougarette coach Jodi Maxfield. “As a dance teacher and director, there is not a better place to be than with these strong and committed dancers. They are truly amazing young women, and I am just grateful to be in the position that I am.”
For 23 years Maxfield has led the Cougarettes to achieve their highest goals.
Abbey Nelsen, Cougarette dance captain, said Maxfield is “very aware of all aspects the team includes” and is a “loving and spiritual leader.”
The Cougarettes face the challenge of being a competitive dance team from a religious university, but they see the challenge as an opportunity to share the gospel through their competitions and performances.
“We had the opportunity to perform ‘Come Thou Fount’ at Homecoming Spectacular this year,” said Lea Wride, Cougarette president. Instead of performing with their normal music, they performed with the BYU Women’s Chorus.
“The Spirit was so strong in the Marriott Center, and it was such a blessing to be able to share my testimony and love for the gospel through a performance like that.”
The opportunity to perform locally and to compete both nationally and internationally allows the Cougarettes to share the gospel in many ways.
Maxfield said because dance is such a “powerful and universal language,” the team takes these opportunities to “share the mission of BYU and the light of the gospel” wherever they are able to go. Wride agreed that the Cougarettes find many great opportunities for missionary work.
“The opportunities we have as Cougarettes are incredible,” Wride said. “The missionary experiences we have and the opportunity to do what I love — (dance) through college — is all I could hope for.”
Wride went on to say that being a part of this team has helped her feel “very much a part of the university” and has made her college experience unforgettable.
“Being on a team that has national and international titles is an exhilarating experience,” Wride said.
Just two years ago the Cougarettes won an international title when they were invited to compete in the New Prague Dance Festival. Along with the festival title, the Cougarettes hold twelve national titles, including three hip hop titles awarded from the National Dance Alliance (NDA) competition held annually in Florida.
This year’s team of Cougarettes is hoping to take home two more national titles. They will be competing in both the hip hop and open dance categories.
“Winning isn’t everything,” Nelsen said of Nationals. “We train all year for national competition, and all we can hope to do is our best. But if we do win, it is nice to feel the success of all of our hard work throughout the year.”
The Cougarettes will be performing their annual “Cougarettes in Concert” this weekend at the Covey Center for the Arts. For ticket information, click here. Performances began on Thursday but will also be held Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with a 2:00 p.m. matinee on Saturday.