All dancing and no play
Some people dance for fun — to cut loose, escape and enjoy themselves.
For Brittany Watson, dancing is serious business. The 2008 Tonganoxie High graduate has been moving to music since the age of 3 and has done so all over the map — from right here in Kansas, to Florida and even Paris, France.
As she works toward earning an associate’s degree at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Watson has taken her dance career to another level on the school’s dance team, the Golden Girls.
The squad’s name occasionally conjures up thoughts of the 1980s sitcom with the same title about four older, single women.
“Isn’t that a TV show from a long time ago?” some have asked Watson.
Having never seen the hijinks of the series, though, Watson only knows the hectic schedule of being a JCCC Golden Girl as she enters her second year on the team.
Even in the summer, the dancers practice twice a week. And practice involves much more than going over steps. Team members stretch, run a mile, do some abdominal work, practice technique and work on specific routines. During the school year, those practices last three hours and come three times a week.
It’s a physically demanding activity and it can take a toll.
“We do it all year long,” the former Chieftain Stars dancer said. “We never really get a break.”
Managing schoolwork with dance, work and other activities requires discipline. Watson said she gets sore and often feels tired. And commuting to the campus from her Tonganoxie home everyday adds to that busy schedule.
“It’s kind of hard to stay motivated but this is our job,” Watson said.
Some of the job requirements for Golden Girls include performing at basketball games, pep rallies and other JCCC functions. But their main focus throughout the year is the national competition held each spring.
The dance team works exhaustively on a routine in preparation for the NCA/NDA Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship, critiquing it and cleaning it in hopes of wowing the judges with a perfect performance.
“It’s really stressful,” Watson said. “You eat, sleep, breathe nationals the whole year until you get there.”
This past April, the Golden Girls traveled to Daytona Beach, Fla., for the competition. They just missed out on making the showcase stage, which is televised nationally.
“It wasn’t as good as we wanted to do but it’s really intimidating,” Watson said of the event, which involves nearly 5,000 dancers and cheerleaders each year.
With that in mind, she and her teammates already are working toward next year’s nationals, even though the event is about nine months away. This week, they are attending a camp on the Kansas University campus in Lawrence. They will have three days to learn and perfect a dance, and their performance at the camp’s conclusion is critical. The team is given a ranking and if it is high enough, the dancers can earn a trip to next year’s nationals.
That trip is important to each dancer but Watson will have an even more vested interest after becoming the team’s co-captain this summer. She will be working with captain Chrissy Birkholz of Paola to make sure the Golden Girls are on top of their game and improve throughout the year.
JCCC dance coach Erin Fine said, as co-captain, Watson will work with Birkholz and the coach on a daily basis.
“Her main duty as co-captain,” Fine said, “will be to take charge of the team motivation throughout the year, inside and outside of practice activities.”
For Watson, who said she may one day open her own dance studio, all the work and responsibilities are worth it. Besides, it isn’t like she doesn’t have some fun.
“I enjoy doing it a lot,” Watson said. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be dancing.”