Pink Panthers pump up the pride

Abbey Whittington, Associate News Editor

Giavanna Desai, along with her fellow Pink Panthers, rehearses for homecoming weekend performances during an emergency practice Tuesday in McAfee Gym.
Victor Gomez
Giavanna Desai, along with her fellow Pink Panthers, rehearses for homecoming weekend performances during an emergency practice Tuesday in McAfee Gym.

Captains for the Pink Panthers Dance Team Alyssa Wurtzinger and Sarah Cowger have scheduled emergency dance practices and coached their teammates during their busy week to prepare for their performances for homecoming’s pride events.

The Pink Panthers Dance Team will be performing their routine in the “Oz-Some” Yell Like Hell Pep Rally on Friday in the McAfee Gym as well as performing in the homecoming parade on Saturday.

Besides the homecoming rallies, the dance team also performs their routines throughout the Charleston community and in other Eastern events like First Night, where the Pink Panthers perform annually.

Wurtzinger has been on the team since her freshman year and said that over the summer the team went to a camp where they learned routines for First Night.

Wurtzinger said at these summer camps and practices the team also learns traditional and sideline dances they perform all year long at the football and basketball games.

The dance team will have routines with songs including but not limited to “Hands to Myself” by Selena Gomez and during half time the team has coordinated with the band to perform to the song “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow.

The team will also have their traditional pregame routine “Salute” along with “The Fight Song.”

Cowger has been on the team for three years and said the captains, coach or both, create the choreography for each dance.

Cowger said she choreographed the “Hands to Myself” routine and Holly LeMier, Pink Panthers coach, choreographs the routines for the half time performances.

LeMier said have done an exceptional job in preparing the team for homecoming.

Wurtzinger said usually the captains will come up with the routines but if their coach sees leadership potential she will have members come up with the routine.

This year the team has 11 members including Kelsie Abolt, Giavanna Desai, Leslie Drueke, Katherine Gallaher, Ryanne Marks, Paige Olsby, Elise Schall, Laura Trost and Starr Winburn.

Cowger said that the team is very different from last year and that there are a lot of new members.

Wurtzinger said the transition is not the same for a high school team and some of the girls have never been on a dance team at all.

Cowger said in the beginning the captains will be very “hands on” in teaching them everything and then will let them continue on their own so when the captains leave they can lead members the following year.

“If we (teach) them the full year then they’re never gonna know how to do it for other members so we try to give them some leadership opportunities,” Cowger said. “We don’t just leave them high and dry but we also don’t baby them.”

Cowger said in preparation for homecoming, the team has mentally prepared themselves for a stressful week so the team would have to work together to avoid last minute emergency practices.

Wurtzinger also added that during their busy homecoming week, both captains have encouraged their members to get things done ahead of time, go home, eat and sleep well so the week would go smoothly.

“With homecoming we have three dances we have to learn and perfect so it can get a little stressful at times so the energy can be kind of down but at the end of the day we are kind of like a little family,” Wurtzinger said. “I have always thought about (the team) as a home away from home.”

Wurtzinger said Cowger is always one to be all over the peppy and exciting attitude and she feeds off of the energy.

“It’s really important for (the team) to be on that same level because the new girls are nervous when they see a bunch of new people,” Wurtzinger said. “I still get nervous sometimes when you just see that big crowd of people, but it’s so important that we stay on top of our game and be peppy.”

Cowger said her favorite part about being on the dance team is the games and events.

“The performances is where I thrive, like I am EIU, this is what I was made to do and this is what I want to be doing,” Cowger said. “If I was in the stands I’d be itching to get down on the field.”

  Abbey Whittington can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]