As football fans tune in to ESPN for the Russell Athletic Bowl Monday, the Oklahoma Sooners and Clemson Tigers won’t be the only ones in the spotlight.
Eleven Knightdale High School dance team members will be performing at halftime, along with students from nearly 400 other schools lined around the stadium.
When coach Cathy Wills saw the opportunity to submit a video of the team’s performance to the annual contest, she jumped at the chance for the team to perform in front of the largest audience they’ve ever had.
More than a month later, she learned that their team had been selected to participate in two parade routines at Universal Studios in Orlando in addition to the choreographed routine at Orlando’s Citrus Bowl Stadium.
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Their routine was pre-choreographed by Bonnie Story of “High School Musical” fame and consists of a mashup of several songs that include “Happy” by Pharrell and “Break Free” by Ariana Grande.
Of the 20 members of the team, 11 girls committed to the fundraising goal of nearly $1,000 each in two-month span.
Three seniors, five juniors, one sophomore and one freshman sold chocolates, did face paintings and volunteered with road races to cover the funding for the trip.
In the final few days before they leave, the team was scrambling to complete its fundraising, in addition to the pocket money they had already contributed.
The day after Christmas, they will drive to Orlando and return Dec. 30.
Both the dance team’s class and the trip are educational. The dance class is an independent study class, and the trip will require daily journal entries about their visits to Universal Studios and other experiences.
For some students, like Katia Fajardo Perez, it’s their first time out of state.
“I’m excited to visit a new place. I hope it’s hot,” she said with a smile.
The team performs for the football and basketball teams at Knightdale High and assists theater and other clubs when they are in need of choreography.
“Dancing takes so much passion and skill,” said A’Ishah Cullum. “It takes heart.”
Ahriyona Wilkins pointed out that this would also be good for her resume.
Wills said that dance is different from cheerleading because the girls don’t complete stunts and tricks – but instead perform technical skilled dance moves.
“We get people excited and pumped,” Wills said. “We bring school spirit up.”