College Dance Team Central

Friday, December 22, 2006

Florida State Golden Girls


'We're crazy, but we're dedicated'

By Jennifer Jefferson
Tallahassee Democrat
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"They are not cheerleaders. They do not stunt. They do not tumble. They are dancers," coach Wendy Crawford said.

They are the Golden Girls, Florida State University's official dance team, and they excite the crowd at home basketball games with their three performances and corresponding outfit changes. They never do the same routine twice. They'll be performing tonight when the Seminoles take on Coastal Carolina University at the Civic Center.

“They were ranked, like, 30-something,” Crawford said, remembering when members convinced her four years ago to coach the team. “Now they are fifth in the nation, so we are pretty darn happy about that. I put too much effort into this when I was in school to let it die.”

When Crawford was a Golden Girl, the team always placed in the top five at the National Dance Association's Collegiate Nationals. The Golden Girls have since reclaimed the No. 5 national ranking, and they hope to better it at the national competition at Disney Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando in January.

Dance teams from universities across the country send in video performances to compete to be ranked in nationals, but only 30 teams are selected.

Luckily, being in the top five comes with perks: They don't have to pay the $15,000 it would have cost the Golden Girls in fees and expenses to go to nationals. It is money the team would have had to raise on its own.

“We're almost guaranteed to go straight into the finals,” Crawford said. “It's all about fighting for the title once we're there.”

Sweating for success

Being one of the 20 Golden Girls isn't easy.

When Crawford was a student at FSU, 300 girls tried out for the team. These days, about 100 girls try out over three days, and no more than 20 make the final cut.

Freshman business student Jennifer Efstathion said trying out was “sort of intimidating.”

Efstathion has been dancing since she was 3 years old. A former dance teacher in Jacksonville was a Golden Girl and suggested that she try it.

Her experience thus far has been “amazing and so much more than I thought.”

The girls practice twice a day, four times a week. The first practice is from 5:30 to 7 a.m., and there is an evening practice from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., sometimes until 10 p.m. The team usually gets the weekends off from practice, but the girls are preparing for nationals, so they practice every day until Saturday.

One recent Saturday, they practiced with guest choreographer Ricky Ruiz from 12:30 to 7 p.m., with an hour break. There is no time for their muscles to get cold, and when it's time for the water break, they flee the practice room.

A Golden Girl needs to be “easy-going, adaptable and willing to work hard,” said Kristy Griffith, a senior dietetics student and Golden Girl.

“It's not for everyone,” said Taryn Heinemann, a Golden Girl and senior sports management student.

“We're crazy, but we're dedicated,” Crawford said. “They're not pretty girls with low IQs who don't have a good GPA.”

The team's grade-point average is 3.66. Some members are studying organic chemistry and are pre-medicine students. There are four dance students on the team.

“There are more years than not when at least one girl doesn't make it back on the team," Crawford said. "We have people who make the squad and every two years, someone ends up quitting.”

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