Statesville High School has had a dance team supplementing pep tunes with upbeat routines and raising school spirit for eight years.
Cheryl Klaft, Statesville High School’s dance teacher and the team’s instructor, has a jacket she wears with a paw print for each year she’s led the dance team. Every year, she adds another.
“The majority of what we do is on the track. The band is in the stands, and when they play a song, we have a dance to that song,” Klaft said. “We are right next to the student section. The cheerleaders are on the other side, and so we feel like we’re a part of that whole pep squad to get the students involved.”
When the football team scores a touchdown, the dance team will do a kick line and kick for every point scored in the game so far.
“If the score gets up to 54, we’re doing 54 kicks,” Klaft said. “That’s kind of fun because that gets the student section counting, ‘One! Two!...’ It’s really exciting.”
Klaft said the dance team also participates in the marching band’s show, marching and dancing on the field as its own section.
The dance team and band work closely together. Klaft said the band director gives her the music the band will be playing during the football season. Pep tunes played year after year have assigned choreography. The team’s two student leaders will create choreography or recycle routines for any new songs the band will play during the game.
“So we don’t have to recreate the wheel every single year, we have a bucketful of dances we can choose from. Now, every year, we do like to add a new dance, so it’s fresh,” Klaft said. “We name the dances, so one is SWYMGY (pronounced swa-mee-gee) which means ‘Shake What Your Mama Gave You,’ which is your hips,” Klaft said.
Another routine is called ‘Pony.’
Klaft said the dances aren’t long, maybe 64 beats of movement the team can repeat throughout a pep song.
“The leaders will go home with the music, and they’ll count it, and they’ll count the rhythms, and they’ll take movements that we’ve done or maybe make up their own movement and then come back to practice and teach it to everybody,” Klaft said. “Some of it is really out of their own brains, and some of it they pick and choose from movements that we do all the time.”
Klaft said she accepts students from any group attending Statesville High School. She will work with freshmen, though they have a different schedule. She also accepts early-college students attending Crossroads Arts & Sciences Early College who can participate in the dance team for their fifth year.
“One thing I think is great for our students is that we have such a cool demographic in this school,” Klaft said. “That’s one of the things I love about Statesville High School is every color, size, it doesn’t matter exists here and they’re on my team, and I think that’s really cool.”
Students don’t have to have any dancing experience. Klaft said she’s happy to teach anyone who will put in the effort.
“For a band dancer, you can have zero knowledge,” Klaft said. “All you have to have is commitment, and the willingness to learn and try because there is that sort of learning curve, and you’re going to feel like you have two left feet for a while, but if you stay with it and push through, you’re going to be fine.”
Klaft said she does require tryouts, even for returning students, and she pays attention to students’ grades when she’s deciding who makes the team.
Because the dance team practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well as attending almost every Friday football game, Klaft said she wanted to make sure the members of the dance team could balance the time commitment and academics well.
“I think any activity after school teaches kids more than just what they’re doing,” Klaft said. “You know, responsibility, time management, all that kind of stuff.”
Klaft said her dance team also becomes a family by the end of the season, supporting each other.
“I think it does bring a lot of school spirit and changes your relationship with school, so school becomes a really important part of your life as it should be,” Klaft said.