Parkland Dance Team provides great opportunity for dancers
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 17:10
Parkland College school spirit is always alive and well at home sporting events during the fall and winter months. One reason for this is the Parkland Cobra Charmers Dance Team.
Led by Head Coach Kelley Englehardt in her eighth season, the 14 dancers that make up the squad are in charge of getting Cobras fans excited to cheer for their home team.
Her squad looks forward to giving fans the best possible show.
“Fans can look forward to some high-energy, crowd-pleasing routines,” Englehardt said. “We really try to focus on picking music that’s current and popular.”
In order for fans to receive a great show on the court, the team has to put in a lot of work behind the scenes to make it possible.
“It’s a big time commitment. We practice three times a week, three and a half hours each time,” Englehardt said. “On top of that you’ve got to keep your studies up maintaining a 2.0 GPA and full-time status.”
The Charmers perform at all men’s and women’s basketball games. Additionally, they work concessions at the U of I football games and run clinics for high school teams and other aspiring dancers.
Due to Englehardt’s part-time status as a dance coach, the girls are often working towards perfecting their routines without her. Thankfully, former Cobras dancer, Assistant Coach Brandi Lewis is there to fill the void.
Lewis coordinates practice and continues the plan laid out by Englehardt in the beginning of the week.
“The girls know that Brandi and I work very closely together,” Englehardt said. “We all talk about what the plan is on Sunday, then Brandi is going to execute it on Tuesday and Thursday.”
Practices for these Charmers are not just geared towards performances inside the friendly confines of the Dodd’s Athletic Center. The opportunities extend all the way to the UDA College National Tournament in Orlando, Fla.
However, there is a lot to be done before January 15 rolls around.
“It takes a lot of fundraising,” Englehardt said. “It takes about $25,000 a year for us to do everything that we need to do.”
Much of their fundraising consists of their concessions work and dance clinics. The desire for these girls has to be there because they are the ones who must execute the fundraising.
“It’s all on them. In fact, I tell them ‘here’s the amount of money we have to raise,’” she said. “I kind of leave it in their hands. They really do work hard on that.”
The payoff has been well worth it in the past. The Charmers have finished in the top 15 at the national tournament in each of the last four years.
In addition to competing in the tournament, the squad travels to a summer camp at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee every August. At this camp, they gain exposure, dancing with other Big Ten schools like Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois.
“That’s where we go and learn a lot of the material we’ll use for halftime routines and timeouts for basketball games,” she said.
At this summer camp, individual competitions take place where each cobra dancer has to learn a routine and perform it by themselves with other teams.
“It’s really good for the girls,” she said. “Its very challenging and it kind of shows them where they need to get to be at for the year later.”
The dance season for the Charmers lasts from August-March roughly speaking. From there, the next step is to find the dancers for next year’s team.
Tryouts for the team occur the third weekend of April. All members must tryout, including returning dancers.
“They need to do, at the bare minimum, a double pirouette,” she explained. “They need to have good leaps, nice flexibility with their kicks and be able to hook up choreography quickly.”
This year’s team is steadily moving forward with their routines for the year. At this moment, the focus is on perfecting their brand new routines for game days.
“I’d say that these routines we have this year are definitely the most challenging,” the coach pointed out. “Our hip-hop routine has got tons of tricks in it and is very athletic.”
The squad is also learning to work with a new choreographer who was just brought in from Orlando, Fla. This takes some time.
“We’re getting there, but we’ve still got a lot of work to go,” the eighth-year head coach said.
With the home opener for men’s basketball less than three weeks away, anticipation is building for the great half-time show that is the Cobra Charmers Dance Team.
While their long-term goal is to place well at Nationals, the short term goal for these ladies is very clear.
“We know that without a band there is minimal entertainment outside of the game itself,” she said. “We’re just trying to be as exciting as we can be.”
Even though scholarships are not offered for the dance team, the opportunities one can receive from being a Cobra Charmers Dance Team member are worth the time and energy, especially for those passionate about dancing.
Come out and support the Charmers as they cheer on the Cobras Men's Basketball team on November 1 at 7:30 p.m.