Anyone can dance — but it takes patience, guts and intensity to step up to the professional level.
For those willing to take the plunge, auditions for the UNF Velocity Dance Team start Sept. 10.
Missy Cole is the 10-year coach of the UNF Velocity Dance Team.
Cole began teaching the team around the time it was accepted into the UNF Athletics Department. Before then, it was a club members had to raise funds for through club dues and paying out of pocket.
Cole said the team is at the classic collegiate level. This means dancers are likely to perform at the semi-professional or professional echelon. Dancers are also expected to take on both dancer and cheerleader roles.
“[The dancer] is a well-rounded, versatile, dance performer,” Cole said.
A classic performance goes like this: Under bright lights, the dancers perform with enthusiasm that stirs the audience into a cheering frenzy. They are brighter and better. They move and groove. They smile with style. They are not shy but may be sly.
There will be seven dancers returning from last year’s team.
Taylor Howard, a UNF nutrition sophomore, is one of the magnificent seven. Howard began dancing at age 3. She danced her way into her high school dance team, then ultimately the UNF dance team.
Howard’s mother kept encouraging her to dance and not be afraid of performing in front of a crowd.
“My mom wanted me to have confidence,” Howard said. “I ended up really having a passion for [dancing].”
Howard’s other “mother,” Cole, is a role model to her.
“She is always telling us to have a positive attitude and do our personal best,” Howard said.
Howard’s confidence and enthusiasm did not appear overnight. When Howard was younger, she was diagnosed with a chronic disease that affected her hearing. Howard wore a hearing aid in order to treat the symptom. She turns that hardship into inspiration.
“You can do anything and persevere through everything,” Howard said.
Another veteran dancer is Caitlin McDonnell, a UNF education junior.
Like Howard, McDonnell also began dancing at 3 years old. But she did not take the hobby seriously until she was 9 years old.
McDonnell tried out for her first dance team when she saw an advertisement at a dance studio where she practiced. She never expected to make the team because she forgot her shoes for a good portion of the audition process.
“I didn’t expect to make it,” McDonnell said. “But when I saw my name on the list, I was really excited.”
McDonnell also had to overcome obstacles to get where she is today. Her father’s job required her to constantly move. McDonnell used that to her advantage by meeting new dancers everywhere she went, and kept improving her moves.
The team has performed at special events throughout the years, including many UNF sports games.
For Howard, the first UNF basketball game last year was her most memorable event. For McDonnell, it was dancing at the Atlantic Sun Conference Finals. For Cole, it was when she took her team to the National Dance Alliance competition in Daytona during her fourth year as a coach. The team placed first at this national event.
Cole said she is hoping for at least 10 new recruits this year that will impress with finesse.
“I’d love to go for the numbers,” Cole said, “but I’d rather have quality and the talent.”