The University of Indianapolis dance team has received an upgrade to the club sport level this semester. The dance team was formerly recognized as a tier two Registered Student Organization (RSO), which created restrictions that included less participation during game days. In addition to their usual halftime show during sporting events, the dance team will now be able to do band dances. They are able to dance along to the pep band’s music and help fire up the crowd during the game instead of sitting in the stands, according to Head Coach Carlee Bachek.
“The girls were able to do band dances on the sideline of the football field, which is a program first,” Bachek said. “And that’s something that I’ve been working towards, basically since I started coaching. It’s been a few years. Finally being able to see that come to fruition and the girls being on the sidelines, being really involved in game day was a really rewarding thing for me to be able to see.”
Bachek is an alumnus of the UIndy dance team. She said she joined the team in 2010 when they were still student-led. Bachek said the leadership of the team at the time pushed to have a coach in order to ensure future members would be led by someone with a background in dance that the team needed. As an alumnus, Bachek said the team’s growth has been amazing to watch and is one of her favorite parts of coaching.
“I’ve seen the team grow a ton in my time on campus and with the dance team,” Bachek said. “It’s really inspiring to see all of the growth that the program had made in the years that I had been coaching. And now we’re getting even more support from the university, which has also been really nice to see that kind of whole program growth, over the course of the years that I’ve been the coach.”
Team captain and junior Taylor Rice said she got involved with the dance team because of her lifelong history with dance. Rice said she has been dancing since she was three-years-old and had a primarily studio dance background when she joined the team. She said she ran for team captain because of her knowledge and interest in leadership positions.
Bachek said the typical tryout for the dance team consists of either attending a clinic led by current members to learn different routines or girls can come to the tryouts and learn routines in small groups. The girls trying out also answer interview questions, as well as submit an application and references. Rice said she used the clinic as her tryout.
“Mine [tryout] was a little bit different because I had a high school dance competition on the day of tryouts for my incoming freshman year,” Rice said. “. . . I used a prep clinic as my tryout. But normally, we come to tryouts, we learn a hip hop routine, usually, either a jazz or a pom routine, we learn the school’s fight song. We do all of that.”
According to Bachek, the dance team’s season begins in July when they attend the Universal Dance Association camp, where the girls spend about a week learning their routines for the year. Those who attended come back to teach the routines to the rest of the team members during the intensive in August. Bachek said those routines are used throughout the year when the team dances at different sporting events on campus. Then they begin learning their routines for national competitions in October and compete in April.
Rice said the 2020-2021 academic year was hard for the team because of how restricted practices were due to COVID-19. Practices had to take place less often, only lasting one to three hours, and there were no games to dance at, Rice said. But, according to Bachek, the dance team still submitted a virtual tryout for a Dance Team Union competition in their Spirit Showdown category, which showcases what the team would do during game day. The team came in third place nationally.
Team morale has improved since the transition to club sports, Bachek said. The dancers feel more invested in the game, she said, now that they can actively be on the sidelines and support UIndy Athletics instead of sitting in the stands. According to Rice, the team gets to have a more choreographed routine during the game and not just during halftime so they are more separate from the cheerleaders. She said this change from an RSO to a club sport was a huge step from the past, as the team is now being recognized for its athletic ability.
“There’s not a lot of other things that are set in place for us yet [as a club sport],” Rice said. “But we also got to hang up one of our plaques for winning at Nationals last year in the room, which, that seems like it’s small, but we’ve never really had a place to put any of our trophies or plaques or awards or anything. So the person that’s in charge of the club sports came and hung that up for us, which was a very small victory, but it’s just one of the things that we’re starting to get to do because we’re club sports.”