College Dance Team Central

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

First-year Classy Cat Brings World of Experience, Skill to Team

By: Sheila Ellis
Media Credit For All Photos: Steven Doll
Kansas State Collegian

The spotlight was on her - a young girl in a pink tutu and sequins sparkling just as bright as her smile.

She wasn't scared then. She isn't scared now.

The same fearless woman can be spotted wearing her purple sequins and shaking it with the Classy Cats.

Shamekia Kirklin, freshman in pre-psychology from Copperstone, Texas, and a member of the Classy Cats, said she loves the crowd.

Amanda Young, a fourth-year Classy Cat, said Kirklin brings a lot of spirit to the team.

"Shamekia is the only girl on the team that has the same amount of energy at the beginning of the game and at the end," Young said.

Kirklin said she never tries to out-dance or outshine any of the other Classy Cats.

"I just dance. I love performing in front of people," she said.

Although Kirklin grew up in a military family and has moved around since she was born, she found one thing she could do well everywhere she went: dance.

She said her love for dance started at age 2.

For five years, she lived in Germany, where she learned different styles of dance.

"Their dance is definitely different from dance here in the U.S., because they have their own culture, and they show it in their dance," she said.

While in high school, Kirklin performed in many places across the United States. She has danced with famous choreographers like Wade Robson from the reality TV show "So You Think You Can Dance," and choreographers for top music artists like Usher, Britney Spears and Beyoncé.

She has studied under many dance teachers, but one, Denise Wall, has had a particularly large influence, Kirklin said.

Wall has produced many national dance success stories straight from her studio in Virginia Beach, Va.

"She helped me realize my passion for dance and how I wanted to continue dance throughout college," she said.

Kirklin said Wall was strict and loving at the same time.

"When it came to dance, that was her passion, (and it) made her job worthwhile. She wanted everyone to dance the same and look the same," she said.

Kirklin said Wall was a positive role model and a second mom.

When it was time for Kirklin to decide what to do after high school, attending K-State was high on the list.

"It was very ironic that she (Kirklin) was out there rooting for K-State to beat her hometown team of Texas at the last home game," Kathleen Henao, Classy Cat coordinator, said.

Auditioning for the Classy Cats seemed like the next logical step in collegiate life for Kirklin after she chose to attend K-State.

After the two rounds of team tryouts, coordinators announced the selected women's numbers.

"When they called my number, I was so excited and ready to be a Classy Cat," Kirklin said.

Henao said women who audition for the team must attend a clinic, learn Classy Cat dance style and pay $500 to $700 in uniform, camp and other fees.

"This clinic usually weeds out some of the girls that are not so serious," Henao said.

Henao said the women have an hour to learn two combination dances of about 45 seconds each. Then they are asked to perform the dances for judges. Cuts are made, and auditioners start a second round of more intense techniques.

Kirklin is the only black woman on the Classy Cat dance team.

Coming from predominantly white schools, Kirklin learned how to adapt and not view at herself as an outsider because she looked different.

"I don't look at dance as a race. It's just performing," she said. "We all love dance."

Henao said Kirklin is talented and is a great asset to the team.

"Shamekia is a person who wants to be remembered for who she is and not what (race) she is," Henao said.

This part of Kirklin's personality came from her family, Kirklin said. Relatives taught her not to look at race but look at individuals and their accomplishments.

"I am so close to my family. They have had so much to do with the person I am today," she said.

In her spare time, she choreographs solos for high school dance teams.

Another passion Kirklin has is helping people. She said she values assisting and supporting her close friends.

While in high school, Kirklin earned her Certified Nursing Assistant degree.

"I want to be a nurse so that I can help people," she said.

If it came between a professional dance career and being a registered nurse, Kirklin said she would try to do both because she is passionate about both.

In Kirklin's transition into college, she has faced some obstacles, including moving out of the residence halls mid-semester to have freedom to study and time to herself.

And when it comes to being a part of the Classy Cats, Kirklin said the team is close and helps fulfill her college experience.

Henao said the women participate in team bonding activities often.

Young said the Classy Cats are like a family.

"We have team unity in more than just dance and appearance. We are unified in our daily lives," Young said.


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