UHV's Jaguar Jazz dance team spins new student life on campus

Nov. 5, 2011 at 6:05 a.m.
Updated Nov. 6, 2011 at 5:06 a.m.

Lilly Dunong poses with the UHV Jaguar Jazz dance team before their performance during Pumpkin Palooza on Thursday.

Lilly Dunong poses with the UHV Jaguar Jazz dance team before their performance during Pumpkin Palooza on Thursday.

Cackling filled the otherwise abandoned and dark University of Houston-Victoria University Center on a Wednesday night.

Well after classes let out and employees went home, the sounds of a new student organization poured from behind a door, barely cracked.

Inside, college girls were trying on tutus.

It was the UHV Jaguar Jazz dance team.

The dance team sprang out of a budding student life at the growing university and in particular from UHV freshman Stephanie Ledwig's initiative. Ledwig, a Victoria native, trudged through all the logistics of setting up a student organization and hung up fliers around campus hoping there were other students like her - students who had a passion for dancing.

"I wanted to dance at a college dance level, so when I found out UHV didn't have a dance team, I really wanted to put one together," she said. "It's a lot of hard work, but it's coming together pretty smoothly.

At least 25 people showed up to the first team meeting. The group eventually settled down to a cozy 13 members, a small but close-knit group of mostly freshman.

"Everybody's involved in different things at school, so if it weren't for this group, I would have never known them," Chasity Grimes said.

Less than 24 hours before the Jaguar Jazz team would perform for their peers, the girls sat in a circle sharing familiar stories from the short time they've known each other.

They laughed about squishing into the car of the team's lone junior, Ami Soliz, who takes the girls away from the campus bubble of dorms and classes. They remembered carving pumpkins, playing games and practicing their dances between homework, jobs and regular dance practices.

They were loud, energetic and gave a good amount of grief to the team's token male, Charlie Torres.

"I'm blessed," said Torres. He gave a joking kiss to his bicep, while the crowd of college girls "aww'd."

"When you actually hang out with people who have the same passion, you get to see them as family," he said.

Torres hopped on board to be the team's choreographer. In times of heated practice, he can sometimes be heard yelling commands to the dancers in Spanish, the girls teased.

But by the time it came to get up and dance, the crew got surprisingly serious.

"No smiling," Torres yelled to the bubbly girls whose faces suddenly turned to stone.

They were practicing their "Thriller" dance, just in time for Halloween and coinciding with the freshmen's zombie-themed seminar class.

The girls said they hope to encourage more school pride at their new university home, like their first performance at a UHV soccer game.

"More people will want to come (to events). They want to see their friends pumped up, spirited," said Irieal Morgan.

In between fall activities at UHV's Pumpkin Palooza, students could be heard murmuring in anticipation for the Jazz team's performance.

That afternoon, the girls creeped out of the same University Center in now-fitted tutus and face paint.

In front of several dozen of their classmates, they strutted their stuff, encouraging caws from the crowd.

By the end of the dance and despite Torres' warnings, the Jaguar Jazz team couldn't quite hide their zombie smiles.

"I feel more like me when I dance," Tracsion Stokes said. "When I come here, I'm automatically smiling."



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