The Penn State University Lionettes (Brian Harmon, courtesy Penn State University)

4 Champion Dance Teams' Funniest Performance Snafus

Performing for any audience is jitter-inducing enough. But how about an audience of 100,000 rowdy game-day spectators? Dance teamers face unique pressures in their highly unpredictable performance environments, and inevitably, things go awry. We asked dancers and coaches from four champion teams to share some of their most embarrassing stories—and how they recovered like the pros they are.

How to Prevent (and Recover From) Dance Team Disasters

Troubleshoot as a team.

"Practice in any new setting as much as possible," says Lindsay Sprague, head coach of the Carolina Girls at the University of South Carolina. "We try to run our dances on the court prior to basketball games to set our spacing. And while we don't often get to practice on the real football field, we can work out kinks on the school's practice field. It really helps to get acclimated, because there are so many other things to think about in the moment. Your dancing has to be second nature."

Be consistent.

"Doing the same tricks or choreography in the same space every day can get a bit monotonous—but you can't let that make you complacent," says Cailyn Cota, a senior member of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Rebel Girls. "If you consistently put in the effort and take each practice seriously, you'll be able to hit all skills or tricks no matter where you're performing."

Expect the unexpected.

"Know that anything could go wrong, and plan accordingly," says Sheryl Knight, head coach of the University of Louisville Ladybirds. "If the music stops? Continue dancing and count to each other. If the music doesn't play? Stand there until it does."

Find ways to stay focused, despite the crowd.

"At basketball games, you're performing so close to the stands—sometimes a fan might be only 20 feet away," says Sprague. "It can be so distracting to focus on a certain face. I tell my dancers to look at the crowd like it's just one big blank canvas. Don't make eye contact if you think it'll distract you."

Stay engaged the entire game.

"Our team performs at football games for more than 100,000 people," says Julie Berardi, head coach of the Penn State University Lionettes. "We know not everyone is watching. But with that many people, you never know who is watching at any moment. So it's crucial to stay engaged and professional the whole time."


"Remember that you're doing something you love," says Knight. "Your love for dance will shine through. And know that you've got a team full of sisters who are all feeling the same way."

A version of this story appeared in the April 2019 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Dance Team Disasters."

Latest Posts

Nathan Sayers

From "Dance Moms" to Complexions: Ballerina Kaeli Ware's Unconventional Path to Success

Take one look at Kaeli Ware's Instagram page and you'll be captivated. The elegant, impossibly long-limbed ballet dancer has over 110 thousand followers hooked on her every polished move. But the 19-year-old phenom isn't just a social media sensation. Having already conquered the competition scene and the world of dance reality TV, Ware recently joined Complexions Contemporary Ballet as a trainee. These days, she splits her time between NYC and Philadelphia, PA, where she continues to beef up her classical training at The Rock School for Dance Education.

She's not a traditional bunhead, and she's not a run-of-the-mill social influencer, either. Instead, Ware is creating her own hybrid career path—and it's taking her to impressive places.

Keep Reading
Jerry Metellus, courtesy Val Chmerkovisky and Jenna Johnson

The Dance Power Couples of 2020

Given the endless hours dancers spend together in classes, rehearsals, and performances, it makes sense that onstage chemistry frequently leads to romance IRL. Sometimes the resulting relationships go beyond stage magic. Serious dance power couples not only perform together, but also collaborate on choreographic projects, embark on joint national tours, and even partner up for mainstream media gigs.

Here are seven fabulous dance couples we'll be 'shipping into the years ahead.

Keep Reading
(From left) Alex Newell, John Clarence Stewart, Jane Levy, Skylar Astin, and Lauren Graham in "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist," courtesy NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Mandy Moore Puts Dance in the Spotlight in NBC's Newest Series, "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist"

Imagine living in a real-life musical, where spontaneous song-and-dance breaks happen as often in the street as they do onstage. After a series of unusual events, every dancers' dream becomes an unexpected reality for computer coder Zoey Clarke (played by Jane Levy) in NBC's newest series, "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist." Although at first her new powers catch Zoey off guard, when she learns to embrace them, she's able to connect with the world around her like never before.

And the best part? Every musical mashup puts incredible dancing front and center, thanks in large part to series choreographer and all around dance-for-the-screen extraordinaire, Mandy Moore. Dance Spirit chatted with Moore about choreographing for the dance-driven series, which returns to NBC with all-new episodes this Sunday, February 16 at 9/8c.

Keep Reading
Enter the Cover Model Search