A Sonoma State Sapphire dancer is, “a visible representation for the entire athletic department and sports division on campus.”
This is the mission that each and every Sapphire dancer is taught to embody when they put on their uniform. With a new season underway, the Sapphires held open tryouts to try and find a new group of dancers to represent this motto and add to the team’s past success—a second place finish out of 22 Division II schools at the USA Nationals in Anaheim, last March.
The tryout for this season’s team was held in the Niagara Studio on the second floor of the Rec Center on Saturday, Sept. 6 at noon. A total of 20 dancers came to the auditions this fall, not including the 35 that came for the spring auditions in May. Just seven of those dancers were given the honor of joining the team.
With seven veteran dancers returning, the team total is now set at 14 dancers for the 2014-2015 season.
For the tryout, the dancers were evaluated on their technique and overall ability to learn and perform choreographed routines. The entire tryout lasted about four hours.
“It was really hard,” said Kelly Raab, a transfer student at Sonoma State. After hearing about the success of the Sapphires from a close friend, she was eager to tryout and experience it firsthand. She was one of the seven new dancers brought on to the team.
The competitiveness of the team is what Raab said she’s looking forward to the most. That, and the contemporary dance pieces that the team performs at competitions.
Junior Erica Pecho, the co-captain for this year’s squad, said that she is excited about the new dancers and believes that they will all make great additions to the team.
The Sapphires’ 2014-2015 competition schedule has not yet been released; but, in the meantime, the team can be seen performing halftime routines for various soccer games and basketball games this fall.
“We usually do hip hop at soccer games and jazz at basketball games so we can turn,” said sophomore Sarah Stolze, who’s a returning dancer.
For the beginning of the semester, practices are focused on providing routines for those performances, as well as putting together ones for their upcoming competitions.
According to Stolze, it was not just the dancing that brought her back for a second season. Rather, it was the bonding that her and her teammates did last year that prompted her return.
One could easily see the fun and vibrant nature of the team, which could be a contributing factor to their success. “We spend four days a week together and I never get tired of them,” said Stolze.
Being primarily a club sport, the team is self-funded; meaning that expenses such as competition fees, travel costs and uniforms are all independently paid for by each of the dancers.
According to the Sapphires’ official website, the cost for a new member can range anywhere from $1,500-$2,000 dollars. Therefore, the team relies heavily on fundraising and sponsorships to help pay for their season.
During the year, the team participates in numerous fundraisers. Last year, the team took part in a Yankee Candle fundraiser in which all proceeds went to the dancers to help cover costs.
In addition, the team also turns to sponsorships to help cover extensive fees. Some previous sponsors include Chili’s Bar and Grill in Rohnert Park and the Lafayette Park Hotel. In return, sponsors receive Sapphire apparel, tax write-offs, and advertising opportunities.
“I had last semester and this semester completely paid for, which is great,” said Pecho. The team is always looking for new sponsors and fundraising opportunities to help fund expenses.
For now, the team is practicing vigorously in order to reach their goals for this season, which include qualifying for USA Nationals in Anaheim for a consecutive year and, hopefully, making an appearance at the United Dance Association National Championships in Orlando, Fla.
Each dancer is hoping to make this season an exciting and successful one with many victories, triumphs and, of course, first-place medals.