When Devin Mallory scored a spot on the renowned University of California, Los Angeles Dance Team, he didn't just make the team—he made history. Mallory is the first male performer ever to join the squad.
All across the country, from college programs to the pros, cheer squads and dance teams are bringing on male members, and upending old, outdated ideas about what it means to be a dancer. We spoke to Mallory about his experience on the team so far, and his advice for other guys hoping to shatter dance-world stereotypes.
Dance Spirit: How did you first learn about the UCLA Dance Team?
Devin Mallory: I first learned about the UCLA Dance Team from my two friends who auditioned and made it on the team. One them convinced me to audition for the Yell Crew of the UCLA Spirit Squad, which exposed me to more of what the UCLA Dance Team was about.
DS: How did you prepare for your Dance Team audition?
DM: The majority of my dance background was hip hop. So, in preparation for auditions, I started working out more, stretching, and spending time in the studio working on the techniques I hadn't studied as much. I took loads of footage of myself on my phone, practicing my leaps and turns, self-critiquing in the hopes of leveling up to the technical requirements of the team.
DS: What was your initial reaction when you found out you made the team?
DM: My friend and I who auditioned together planned on grabbing pizza and ice cream that night. Before heading out, I was doing my laundry, and my friend said the team roster had been released. I was so nervous I couldn't even look at the results. My friend read the list for me, and when I heard my name, I cried.
I couldn't believe that I was making history this way. I'd put in so much into preparing for this audition, and I knew no matter the results, my work ethic and improvement required no validation. But when I got the news, I felt recognized for my hard work.
DS: What was it like the first time you performed with the Dance Team?
DM: The first time I performed as a member of the team, I felt very prepared, in terms of the dances—but the moment before we stepped onto the field for the very first time in our uniforms, I was so nervous. All I could think about was what people would think of me.
Once we got onto the field, though, everything fell together. It was so empowering and just fun to dance with the team for the first time, no matter the nerves.
Mallory dancing with his teammates (Michael Drell, courtesy UCLA Dance Team)
DS: How does it feel knowing that you're making history as the first male dancer on the team?
DM: I feel so privileged to be breaking barriers. I also feel the pressure to be a good role model for fellow male dancers and anyone trying to forge a path in something they have a genuine passion for, but may feel restricted from due to social gender norms.
DS: What has your experience been like on the team so far?
DM: I've been dancing for about a decade now, but I've never been on a team with only girls. Everyone has been so welcoming and helpful in my adjustment. I have truly gained so many sisters.
My coach, Tiph, has been a second mom to me through this entire process. She looks out for me, and always has my best interests at heart. Coach Tiph has guided me throughout the season in presenting my most authentic version of myself.
Mallory (center) with fellow Dance Team members (Angel Delgadillo, courtesy UCLA Dance Team)
DS: What advice would you give aspiring dance team members—in particular, male dancers?
DM: Focus on what you can control—that is you and your work ethic. There is nothing that anyone can say that can drag you down! Shoot for the stars, work hard, and leave your heart on the stage every chance you get.