You may not have heard of them, but SFU’s dance team is already making waves. They are poised to represent SFU at the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) 102nd Grey Cup hosted in Vancouver on Sunday, November 30.
Despite the fact that they are performing as part of the Grey Cup festivities, the club was only founded earlier this year — in March — by dance major Allison Sidnell and secondary education student Caitlin McMahon. Sidnell, who graduated from the University of Guelph with a bachelor of arts, was shocked at the lack of opportunities for dancers at the Burnaby Campus.
“I went to a basketball game last year sometime, and I realized we don’t have a dance team, then I looked into teaching classes,” explained Sidnell. “[But] there wasn’t really much offered for dancers [at SFU Burnaby].”
She continued, “There is a lack of opportunities for dancers outside of the dance program and those that aren’t majoring in the dance program don’t have an outlet for dance. That’s why Caitlin and I started the dance team — to offer a way for dancers with experience to dance and perform in the [non] professional world.”
Sidnell and McMahon proposed their idea for the creation of a dance team to SFU Athletics and got it approved. When the time came to actually get the group up and running, 40 students auditioned, with 17 making the final cut. Sidnell and McMahon had to turn away 15 more students because they were too late to audition — clearly, there was plenty of interest.
McMahon points out, though, that the level of experience is varied on the team: “It’s a range of dance experience within our team, which is what we wanted when we started this. We wanted it to be something that everyone with different dance levels could be a part of.
“We have people who have been dancing since they were three, [and people] who have been dancing for a year or two. So there’s a great range and it’s a great opportunity for people to just come in and harness their dance abilities,” she added.
Sidnell notes that many of the team members are from outside the dance program: “It’s a good mix, we’ve got some dance majors, and then we’ve got a lot of first years who don’t have time to be in the dance program for whatever reason, but they’re really committed, dedicated dancers in their high school years, and they come to university looking for dance experiences and that’s where we come in.”
The team did not take long to gel together, as Sidnell explains, “Within a couple of practices, they were already very close and a lot of them made friends with each other.”
Since then, the dance team has performed at many of SFU’s varsity games, including the homecoming football game and at both men’s and women’s basketball games this season.
The team’s most recent crowning achievement, though, is their being recruited to perform in the pre-game festivities for the Grey Cup.
“We just got an email one day, saying [the CFL] were just looking for some university involvement in the kickoff event,” said McMahon. “It was amazing to be asked to go to the Grey Cup because Allison and I never thought anything like this would come our way, especially in the first year, so it’s a great opportunity and we’re really excited.”
The dance team will participate in the Fan March, which takes place before the game, as the Grey Cup is carried from Jack Poole Plaza to BC Place.
The amount of practice required to pull off such a performance couldn’t come at a worse time of year, with papers and finals right around the corner, but Sidnell emphasized the dedication of the team: “We’ve got quite a few practices going and it’s the busiest time of the semester, so we’ve got a really committed group that comes to every practice.”
Sidnell hopes to see some SFU students at the celebration. “We’re really excited for the Grey Cup. We’re encouraging students to come and support us at the performance.
“We hope for SFU students [. . .] to participate in the march or some festivities at the Grey Cup this year,” McMahon concluded.