Month: February 2011


Trying out for a University Team

Dancing before 40,000 - 50,000 (girls with Airforce boys)

‘There is a difference between University Level Dancing, 4 year college dancing, and 2 year college.

If you are planning on trying out for a dance or cheer team at a University, note that tryouts are generally held in April for University level dancers. Tryouts consist of across the floor technique, including leaps, turns, kicks, the works. Most require you to learn a short routine as well.   Two and four year colleges generally do the same.

The dance teams at a university also work with the cheer teams – thus you have the spirit team. You also work with the band, and do flags; the pep band.  Pep band is  a combination of dance, cheer and marching band. They get along with each other wonderfully! This is not a dance class, this is an actual team that you can receive college credit for. It’s a sport.

These teams are not all about ballet, or drill team, or modern dance for that matter.  While many members have had those genre’s of dance in their life time – it’s more! Ballerinas have wonderful technique, but, there are those who don’t  get the jazz,  hip hop, and pep, that they need to understand on a college level dance team.  A large amount of modern dancers need speed “pep”. If you’ve only danced on a  drill team  in high school, your chances get slimmer as you come up against dancers who have trained all their lifes.

Competitive dancers “studio trained” who have grown up in the dance world fair better than most. A lot of the  top soloists go this route. Almost all of the dancers on these teams have life long dance credentials. Meaning, they didn’t start their dancing careers in high school. They have done it their whole lives.  To many of them, competition is part of everyday life.  That is the world I understand.

It is worth it to talk to dancers who have made it on a professional  university level team, especially if you are planning to tryout. I am talking university level/pro.  Not many 2 or 4 year colleges compete at the University level, not in Utah anyways.

University or College level dancing is the best experience you will ever have. It can also be your worst experience. You may think you are top diva in the dance sport in your home town. But now you are confronted with top diva’s from all over the state, and nation, and some of those diva’s are GOOD!

Most university level dancers will tell you that the directors require perfection. You don’t talk in line. You don’t breath in line. You work!

These are real teams. A number of the dancers are also instructors at studios, drill advisors,  state drill judges,  and/or members of pro NBA/NFL cheer teams .

You will and should work as hard on a University team as you would on a  professional NBA or NFL dance team.  YOU will work.


You have to have a standing back tuck to make the squad at the University level. That and a whole lot more.

The level and the knowledge that dancers and cheerleaders gain at the university level is tremendous.  You are now  learning from the pros. These dancers have earned respect.  Many  of them are “invited” to become judges at competitions, or become advisors.  It’s all in the training.  Age is not a factor –  technique is.

It’s an honor to have a professional call you out and invite you to attend trainings. Not your mom, not your coach, but a pro. Have you been invited? Respect those people who have. Because you know what – the knowledge in their heads will be the knowledge that will in later years be running the more successful studios.

To be an alumni at the university level, you need to be on the team for an entire year. If you make a year “you earned it”. But first you have to make it through tryouts.

There are numerous dancers who would do anything for their team. This is an area you have to be cautious of. Your studies can slip away on you really quickly. You have to be self disciplined in this setting. Talk to those girls who have been there.

If you are a drill team member and you aren’t on a studio floor “boo”. You need to be doing solo’s at competitions. YOU NEED those score sheets from those judges. Those judges are going to tell you the truth, because your coachs and directors may not.

Did I mention you would get your feelings hurt at dance competitions? You will. But, if you really think you are good enough – you will take those scores sheets with the LOWEST score, and you will learn from those. Pay someone to train you!

I would rather have you walk onto that campus and try out for your dream team with your eyes wide open, than give you false hopes.  You have to be on your game.

Dancing on a university dance team is a blast!  Do it if you can.  But, if  you aren’t self motivated, it might not be the place for you.  Within the first two weeks on the team, everyone on campus will know your name, your business, your major, and your friends.  It is high PR! Sometimes that can be a real distraction to your studies.  You have to weigh your options.  What is really best for you.

I choose to tryout and I felt honored to make the team.  I have the highest respect for my team mates.  I know how hard we worked.  I also respected my coach Lori Rupp.  She taught me well, and I will use those skills I learned from her in my future dance instruction, with my own students.

Good luck to you all that are heading to tryouts.  Some of you will drive, some fly in from states far away, and some will walk across the block.

However you get there, know that you have to be on your game!  Your competition is hoping you aren’t.


Stretching and Warm Ups

Stretching  and proper warmups are areas that shouldn’t be overlooked by dancers.

Depending on where you are in your training, that will determine what types of stretching and warm ups you should be doing and how long you should do them before beginning your routines.

If you are just beginning your season, I like the following formula for stretching and warming up my students.

2 to 2 1/2 hour class
30 minutes of stretching and technique.  (Remembering that technique is part of the stretch)
30 minute warm up, which can include a combination of running, cardio (running bleachers), and across the floor.
60 minutes of technical aerobic skills, and/or learning new routine.

* Running one mile is usually adequate enough a warm up.
You are not there to run, but dance.
* Running three miles is excessive and not recommended.

As students progress through the season
30 minute stretching and warmup combined
90 minutes practicing routines for competitions and performances.

Water breaks come at 60 min, 30min and 30min. The extra breaks taken at 30min intervals are due to the high aerobic intensity during the 2nd half of the training day. Students need to fuel their muscles with oxygen and water. Upper level dancers may not require or want these breaks as frequently. You can adjust times per your teams aerobic ability.

There are many styles and types of stretches that one can use. Being able to stretch properly however without damaging your muscles, tendons, or skeleton is important.

Splits training
Weather you are doing left, American right, or center splits, remember you are stretching first – that means you don’t bounce. No slam splits until fully warmed up!

One thing I like to point out to my students is the proper positioning of your legs in a center split position. Your KNEES are pointed toward the ceiling. That will keep you from rotating your hips in the wrong direction. Follow your knee down to your feet. Make sure you are not sickling your feet inward or outward. When pointing your foot you should have a good bevel. Straight lines.

When you stretch side to side or leaning forward, don’t bounce. You are stretching – not bouncing. KNEES TO THE CEILING!

To properly stretch your feet I like some of the following warm ups.

1. Releves done slowly in each position, and then gradually going to releves done as FAST as you can!

2. Without taking your foot off the floor, write the alphabet with each foot.. Write things backwards and forwards. Using a ball to work your feet is also good.

3. Get a piece of surgical tubing (theraband) and wrap it around your toes.  Holding the tubing firmly add tension and  flex and point your foot.  Pointing and flexing your foot helps develop the instep.

4 . Ankle circles are good for loosening up tight muscles. A lot of injuries occur  at the ankle.

Back of legs and calfs

1. Touching your toes, and then rotating  from the balls of your feet to your heals  upward and down.  Feeling the pull in the back of the legs and calfs.

2.  Wall sits and planks.  Many students prefer planks over wall sits.  The planks look similar to a mountain climber position done on the floor.   I will use wall sits as a disciplinary measure if need be.

3. Monster walks across the floor is another good toner stretch.  Basically you do a deep lunging walk, while not allowing your back  knee to NOT touch the ground.

Quads & hamstrings
Leaping, kicking, turning all require strong muscles. A good dance routine will have many transition levels as well. It is important to have strong muscles to handle the endless stooping, bending, and snap flashes.  But strong muscles are only as good as a proper stretch will take them.

A very simple stretch can save you a lot of grief and pain. Holding on to a chair, or if you are well balanced, bend you knee and grab your foot behind you. While holding the stretch, make sure your knee is pointing down to the ground.  The knee should also be level side- by- side with your standing leg. Reverse the stretch on the other side.

Back, sides, neck, arms and shoulders.
Find what stretches work best for you and your team. Don’t skimp on stretching.

The dance
Depending on the level of dancing you are doing, that will determine the amount of stretching and warmup you will need.

At the college/professional level you can expect your routines to be intensive. Typically at this level you will learn at least 5 main dance routines, plus minor dances. You are expected to also learn all the cheers to help with the spirit team. That means you will also learn all the dance moves that go with the cheers (cheer songs). You will pretty much be constantly learning.

You may also be required to perform with the pep band, and that will add an addition 4 to 6 hours a week to your training.

A typical warm up is a six minute mile, with stretching done before. That six minute run is to be as close to a mile as possible. To help with leg development, running bleachers can be substituted for the  six minute mile.  You should be able to do 20 to 40 bleacher runs ( up and back down – that counts as one).

You are required to have a set of light weights for warm ups. You need at least 1-2 pound weights for both hands and ankles.

Don’t forget you will also have to pack your own gear, which may include flags, exercise balls, and weights. Bring a car, some dorms are more than a mile away from the practice site. Did I mention it snows?

Whatever stretches you prefer to use – make sure they are done properly. Stretching is serious business. It should never be taken lightly nor done improperly. Guarding your body against injury is what stretching is all about.

Warming up your body and gaining aerobic ability over time is also very important. Warm ups, like stretching should be a gradual progression – unless it is HELL WEEK, and you better come already prepared.

When you dance on the floor, your stretching and your warmups should have helped you develop technical skills that make  your lines look clean.   Your body should be uplifted, balanced and controlled. You should have the proper aerobic ability to perform at your teams level.

Control, focus, and practice-practice-practice.

Attention… HUT!


How many times have we thought that to give is to receive? Well, true volunteers feel that way. They give out of their own need. The need to feel like they are contributing to a greater whole. Without true volunteers the work might never get done.

Volunteerism isn’t something you get paid to do. There are those who go into volunteerism expecting something in return; a political favor, a job, money, lime light, etc. But for the true volunteer – it’s for the warmth and knowledge of knowing you’ve done a good job, and you may have helped another human being, or special cause.

There are so many things that people can volunteer for. You can coach, work with children, visit the elderly in the hospital, make flyers for a campaign, or do surveys for medical services. The list is endless, the need is great.

True volunteers are often overlooked. They might not even let others know they are working in the background. Some people are just givers. They give of their money, and time. Many don’t like to be noticed for what they do. They don’t feel the need to be recognized. They gain from the experience in other ways. That is their reward – knowing they have helped a cause.

When looking at volunteer work, one needs to be committed to staying the course. Sometimes volunteer work can be very emotional for the giver. Working in shelters, helping animals, dealing with troubled youth. Nothing is ever for sure in anything one will do in life.

But there is a lesson in volunteerism. If you do it, and you do the best you can, you will gain self confidence and a reliance on yourself that you may not have had before.

Leaving the “self” out of the formula for volunteerism is the first step
to being an effective volunteer. You might find yourself handing out clothing or standing in a kitchen soup line dishing out food to the needy. Maybe that isn’t your idea of volunteerism. There are other things that one can do. Volunteering at your local K-12 schools to help teachers with projects and field trips. These are areas that also require a different set of skills and emotional awareness. Working with children from K – 6 grade is very different than working at the middle school and/or high school levels. Needs change. Volunteer needs also change.

As we age in life, the things that we once thought important may be better handled by younger people who have the drive and zeal to handle them. Working at a marathon is a good example! Age brings with it a whole different set of priorities and meaning to each and every one of us. As we age and learn more, we begin to seek out organizations like Rotary, sororities, and non-profit organizations that do community service in many different fields. Helping to raise funds to build a park, or a walkway is another form of volunteering. I know many of you may have done volunteer work when you were younger, working at dinners to raise prop money and gym fees. You were part of something – and had fun at the same time.

When you see those ladies and men sitting at the polls during election time, it should be noted that – that is an all day event. You are there from sun up to sun down, and many times later if you are counting ballots. Why do people do it? Because they want to serve. They want to feel that self appreciation of doing a job well done.

Volunteerism has its ups and downs, like all things in life. Sometimes we go into things full steam and believe we can truly help, only to find out that we don’t have the skills necessary to help by ourselves alone. Learning to work as part of a team when volunteering , helps you to overcome some of this self doubts about our own abilities to help others. A team of people that work together, not as a group of unknowns, but rather a team of individuals with the same goal, the same purpose, and the same drive.

Understanding ones own limitations in volunteering is also important. You can’t be all things to all people. You can only be you. You are one. Learning to pick the right volunteer position that will give you the greatest self  appreciation is an art.  But do try. Try often.

Volunteers are what make us a nation. Our greatest virtue comes from the love and support of volunteers all across this nation reaching out and helping others. Truly we are the greatest country in the world. We are great because of our volunteers. Remember our service people fighting in the war: our community leaders who struggle over political issues to make life better for everyone, the fireman, the coach, and the little old ladies who stitch quilts for the family who has lost everything. Every body has a place. Everyone has a purpose. You just need to find yours.

Some people find volunteering in their writings and drawings. Being able to write articles for non-profit organizations or donating a piece of art for an auction. Its all about caring. Caring for others. There is no greater gift you can give than to give of yourself.

Volunteer – you are needed. Volunteers are what make this country great.

Party! “When things turn out differently”

The big day is almost upon you – graduation! Everyone is talking about what their plans are for college, military, marriage, couch sitting, and just visiting the back of their eye balls. For some it’s an over seas trip, or road trip across country, state competitions, etc.

No body dreams that the world outside these hollowed halls will be anything but wonderful – not once the tassel is flipped to the other side.

For the last four years you have lived, ate, and breathed high school. Your parents are in the preparation stages of becoming unemployed. Unemployed as in, they won’t be sitting on the benches each week, watching this person they helped bring into the world, play sports, debate, or dance, year after year. They lived, ate, and breathed high school as well. Their days of helping you are coming to an end.

Some parents will be putting their children on the payroll, as they dole out thousands of dollars a year for their little darlings to sit snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug at a major university or four year community college. Those parents who live close enough to their students school will still get to eat and breath a little of that 3. world. But their time too, is limited.

A lot of  parents  are now limited to the “hey mom – hey dad, glad you guys could travel up here for this”. It’s love at a distance.  However, the number of college students who still live at home, while taking classes, would surprise you. It’s a huge number!

While you stretch your wings to soar for the first time, you may be thinking that you won’t fall down along the route.  Well, let me give you some words for your journey. You will fall, and you will fall hard at times. But this time, what is different,  is you have to pick yourself back up.

When things turn out differently than you imagined – know that things are as they should be. Things are how you have made them, yourself.  Better yet,  lack of preparation on your part does not mean action on someone else’s part. Deal with it!

I want to give you some simple advice. Some advice from a friend:

– Explore the world that is before you. Explore it all.
– Finishing college is a must!
– Drinking, drugs and sex are not the answer. Instead, that route will  rob you of your dreams.
– Losing the trust of your family will only break your heart, and your families.

– Parking in the University Presidential  parking spot, in a rental car, will get a boot put on your car, and a $300 fine (sorry mom).
– You can’t fix your friend’s problems. That is what AA is for.

– You can’t hang with the high schoolers anymore.
If you are partying – stop. Instead go take a hike, swim, bike, vacation over seas, jog, write a song, play softball, etc.
– Spring break is for college age students only. NO HIGH SCHOOLERS ALLOWED, Unless you like the feel of a jail cell, irate parents, public humiliation, and drama.
– If you dance at college, and you have to be at the”in scene” – never go anywhere alone.
-Photos – keep anything that you want private off of facebook, myspace and your cell phone.
-Photos – DELETE THEM if they are not beneficial to you or someone else.  Posting photos of your enemy doing something wrong can and will come back to you.  What comes around- goes around.  Don’t play the stupid game.  The best picture is the one never posted, and better yet, never taken.  If it isn’t positive – don’t post it.
– Get a BIG @#$ dog and train it to bite. If not, then a little mutt with a big attitude will work. Your space is private – keep it that way.
Men/women will leave you, and older men/women are not the answer.
– When you have to pay for your own car insurance and cell phone, maybe you won’t be so smug.
– When you see your friends drop out of school because they refused to stop partying, or ended up pregnant, and unmarried – don’t follow their lead.
– Sometimes you have to let go of bad relationships (even when it hurts for a while), so your life can get better.
– Remember those people who used to sit on the side line and cheer you on in high school. They become your friends now. They actually have something to say.

Go try out those wings now. I really do wish you all success.

Have a girl or guy night out. Dance together, go dirt biking, ride horses, or go mountain biking. Take a raft trip! Don’t let anyone pull you away from the JOY that you CAN have in this life.


Did I mention not parking in the University President’s  parking spot?

They can hold your transcripts up for unpaid tickets “so you know”.

So, I guess the real reason behind this post is to let you know, that sometimes – the answer is no. The person who has to tell you “no” will be you.