College Dance Team Central

Friday, January 26, 2007

Bearkat Becomes Rockets Power Dancer

By Kristin Edwards
The Houstonian Online

When people think of the Houston Rockets Power Dancers, a lot of negative stereotypes tend to pop up. Well that idea can be put to rest, because Sam Houston State University senior Stephanie Hutchins has been an active member of the professional team for over a semester, and the experience she has had proves that those ladies are truly incredible and enduring individuals.

Hutchins has been involved in dance programs for most of her life, starting with the standard ballet, tap and jazz classes as a three-year-old child. She was on the drill team in high school, and was also an Orange Pride dancer for three years during college. This is her first year on the professional dance team, and when the idea to try out first came up, she was not even sure if she was going to seriously pursue the position.

"The season started in the end of July, and I tried out with a friend of mine for fun. I went through a three week training camp with the other girls, and I found out I made it when school started," she said. "It was great. I didn't expect to make it; I was just trying to make it for the experience. I honestly didn't even think they'd consider me since I'm from Huntsville. I have to drive for an hour and a half where the other girls on the team only have to drive for 10 to 15 minutes."

So far, Hutchins has enjoyed being part of a professional dance team, calling that extensive drive as one of the only downfalls of the experience. Since the members of the team range in age from 18 to 33, it is a "totally different experience in a different atmosphere."

"I love dance and I love sports. I get to combine them while being a part of the Houston community, and that's what I love about it," she said. "I'm used to dancing with girls all my age, but with girls 18 to 33, I'm with girls from several different cultures and a wide range of backgrounds."

Being part of this team is not all dance and games, though. As a member of a professional dance team, practices are an important aspect, which means driving back and forth from Huntsville classes to Houston practices and back to start again the next day.

"I currently wake up at 6 a.m. to work out, go to school in the morning, leave for practice at 5, practice from 6:30 until 9:30, and I get home pretty late," Hutchins said. "This week, we have three practices and a game on Friday."

In addition to the demanding practice schedule, the Power Dancers also make public appearances in order to promote various games, ticket sales and, this week, their swimsuit calendar. Whether the events take place at businesses, bars or public interest events, there's "always something" for the team to do.

"Toyota is a big sponsor of the Rockets, so we make appearances with them. We go to viewing parties at bars and give out free t-shirts," Hutchins said. "We participated in a food drive in Houston, and since the Rockets are big supporters of animal rights, we also went to the Houston SPCA telethon."

It goes without saying that the ladies on the team are constantly busy, but their events and games also contribute to the chance of having another year on the team. According to Hutchins, having that knowledge is just another thing that keeps everyone "on their toes."

"I want to try out for another year, but when I tried out, less than half of the veterans, the returning girls, made it," she said. "During the year, everything you do contributes to how you'll be looked at the following year."

The pressure to perform at the best possible level is no match for the positive aspects taken away from the experience. Hutchins' family and friends have been supportive the whole time, and she now has a strong connection with the other dancers.

"Most of my friends are on the dance team, now. I would say that the girls are so nice, and everyone's genuine. They're just a really great group of girls," she said. "I'm typically shy, but dancing has given me a way to open up."

In the future, Hutchins aspires to teach school, be involved with a drill team any way she can and possibly get her Masters degree in order to become a counselor. For now, though, she is enjoying her time as a Power Dancer, and is very grateful for this year of her life.

"It's a great opportunity to do what I'm doing. With dancing at the games and meeting the people I get to, I wouldn't change this experience at all and I'd love to keep doing it."

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