WALKER — A once familiar sight at Friday night Walker High School football games, the Golden Wildcats dance team is once again bringing its talents and energetic spirit generating routines to the gridiron contests after a prolonged absence.
When the Walker High Wildcats kicked off their home season earlier this fall, the gold-sequined-clad young dancers were out in front of their high school band bringing their special talents to the field.
Rachel Forte, a student at Southeastern Louisiana University and a graduate of Walker High who is coach of the Golden Wildcats, said she cannot recall when the team was disbanded but remembers that during her years at the school there was no dance team.
“I have been dancing for 20 years — ever since I was a little girl — but there was no team for me to dance on in high school,” she said.
Thanks to the efforts of Forte and others, there is dancing on the field once again at Wildcats football games.
Forte, who is not a member of the faculty at Walker High but a volunteer, worked with the dance team’s faculty sponsor, Ashley Brown, school administrators, interested high school students and others to once again place a dance team on the field.
Revival of the team began in the spring, when those planning to reform the group spread the word around school with fliers and announcements that tryouts for the team would be held. Forte recalled that 33 students came to the tryouts, and from that group, 15 were selected for the team. She said the team has junior, sophomore and freshmen dancers.
The students who made the team began practices shortly after the group was formed in April and continued honing their skills during summer gatherings. By June, the Golden Wildcats dancers were ready for a summer camp at Mississippi State University conducted by the United Dance Association.
The Walker girls won second place in a competition known as home routine and received Superior Ribbons for that achievement.
“We also won the 110 Percent Award that exemplifies a full effort and dedication to success on the part of the dancers. The is the most coveted award a dance team can earn, and it is voted on by the camp staff. We were very proud to claim this award,” Forte said.
Forte said she was not surprised that her dancers fared so well at their first camp. “These girls are enthusiastic, energized, and they are eager to learn and participate fully in what the team is trying to accomplish,” she said.
Captain Kenley Forbes and co-captains Lexi Schroeder and Abigail Edwards led the way for the team at camp and other activities.
The members of the new dance team demonstrated their desire to excel by practicing throughout the summer and continuing their preparations into the fall. The team practices every weekday on its own and then joins the band for a Thursday practice, and it’s show time for the girls on Friday nights when Walker is playing a home game. Forte said the dancers do not travel with the team yet but that they may do so in the future.
The coach said her dancers are ready for whatever music the band is playing on a particular night. She said the musical selections vary considerably but a number of traditional songs, old standards and current popular hits are among the repertoire. Forte, who has been affiliated with the Jean Leigh Academy of Dance in Walker for seven years, choreographs the dance routines but said the team did once have a guest choreographer lend some assistance.
Forte said being a member of the Golden Wildcats dance team involves more than just dancing. Team members held fundraisers to help defray expenses and hosted a dance clinic for children that she described as a fun experience for both her dancers and the students. The group has held other fundraisers and conducted a jambalaya dinner sale Friday.
Parents and some supporters also contribute to the group. Forte said for Friday’s game, the parents purchased pink pompoms for the girls to use during the game to show support for breast cancer research. She said parents make regular contributions of different things that add to the dance team experience.
Dancers also must purchase their own dance outfits.
“Their uniforms are bright, shiny and fully sequined,” Forte said. “For some numbers, we add the white gloves. … We are totally glam.”
The coach anticipates needing more uniforms as the team grows.
“It all depends on the numbers. … We would like for the group to keep growing and to build this program into something that is strong and enduring. We have a great group of dancers who brought this team back, and we think that have started something that will grow,” she said.
Forte said Walker High School requires students participating in extracurricular activities maintain at least a 2.0 grade-point average and that her dancers are all above that level. Emphasis on maintaining good grades is part of the dance team experience, she said.
“I think that restarting the dance team has been great for Walker High School and the girls who participate. Our team members have learned new skills, discipline, how to work as a team and how to be leaders. At the same time, they have made new friends and have gained a new, supportive group of classmates. It’s an experience that will last them a lifetime. At the same time, we know that the fans who attend our games enjoy the addition of the dance team, which makes our football nights even more enjoyable,” Forte said.
In addition to the captain and co-captains, the squad includes Emily Bellue, Chloe Carter, An’Tajha DeGray, Madison Garcia, Peyton Gautreaux, Sage Gerald, Kelcie Harris, Rachel May, Lindsey Phan, Megan Trahan, Abigail Vucinovich and Makayla Williams.