SWCC dance team "dazzles"
Melisa Crook has set the standard for Southwestern Community College's dance team.
Crook is the head coach of the Southwestern Dazzlers, an athletic program still in its infancy but growing steadily everyday.
Crook, originally from Indianola, attended Simpson College where she was part of the drill team and captained the team for a year, and taught dance and tumbling. She received her degree in social work, but has maintained her interest in athletics.
"That's what we were really looking for, someone with a strong background in dancing," said SWCC Athletic Director Bill Krejci.
Since college Crook has gotten married, had children and is pursuing a master's degree in teaching. She took her daughter to dance classes when she was three, and signed up for an adult class. From there she taught at Leslie's Dance Emporium and became a nationally certified dance instructor.
In September 2012 she received a call from Matt Thompson, dean of student services at SWCC.
"He just wanted to have a conversation about whether I'd be intersted in actually taking over what they've had for a dance team, and he said, 'I want something real. I want a real coach who knows dance, somebody who would know how to recruit girls who know how to dance and really understand that concept,'" said Crook.
The dance program was not an official, formalized organization until this September and is not a varsity club sport. It is funded through scholarships and budget, and scholarships are available for girls to be a part of the team.
"This year I had to basically, from the student body SWCC has, I had to find some girls who could dance," said Crook. "But due to the way they set up the program, I'll be able to recruit (during this school year)."
Currently the Dazzlers consist of eight team members: Chelsi Cornelius, Abbey Bakerink, Logan Kinyon, Sarah Henrichs, Ashley Davidson, Leah Day, Amber Spainhower and Megan Doubleday.
Crook and the team sat down together and chose the name "Dazzlers," something they feel they can incorporate into their image as a group.
Because the team members have varied dance backgrounds, Crook decided to focus on precision dancing, a method of dancing that uses straight lines and geometric figures. The team incorporates techniques from cheerleading and dance, such as jumps and turns, and will use tumbling in the future. The main goal is to make the dances visually stimulating to watch.
Different things Crook looks for in dancers are formalized dance experience, skill level, basic understanding of dance, technique and commitment.
"When you have a dance team for a college or any school, they're there to represent the school. They're kind of like ambassadors to their athletic departments," said Crook.
The Dazzlers will perform at men's and women's basketball games, dance competitions and the Iowa State Drill Team Association State High School and College Dance Team Championships at Wells Fargo Arena next year.
"They really need to connect to the activities going on at the school," saed Crook. "Basketball's a huge thing for SWCC. We have some great teams and the coaches want to have good involvement from the community, and that's where we kind of jump in."
Recently the team was able to get their first set of uniforms and warm-ups.
Several goals for the team is to grow to 10 members and establish a core team with strong technical skills. The girls also follow the same rules as other athletes in terms of academics and promoting SWCC.
The Dazzlers' next performance will be Saturday, Dec. 15 for the men's basketball doubleheader against Southeast Nebraska at 3 p.m. The co-ed and faculty dances will be held in February. The team will perform at Jam the Gym, held by Creston High School, March 8.
"I only get them for two years," said Crook. "Just getting to know them and knowing that they want to work together, it's been really, really fun."