Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice: UNC’s Dance Sensation

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The Sugar Bears celebrate the year's accomplishments at their annual postseason banquet.

From all being on their own path of dance, to coming together as a team, The Sugar Bears now dance in front of hundreds of students for some of the biggest sports on campus. The Sugar Bears are an intercollegiate sport on campus that deserves much more attention. 

The dance team was originally formed in 1976 as a student-run program that allowed the athletes to continue to pursue their passion of dance and performing while attending college. The members of the team would have to pay dues to fund the season including, amenities such as uniform cost and travel cost.  

“Well, dancing was my passion, and having the chance to keep dancing in college made it a really easy decision to join,” psychology major and dancer Nevaeh Garcia said.  

As of 2023, the Sugar Bears are officially becoming a part of UNC athletics and will be recognized as an intercollegiate sport. This opens the door for advancement of the program and potential scholarships for athletes in the future to attend UNC. As the program advances, and the positions become more competitive, the school will be able to offer scholarships to athletes coming out of highschool dreaming of dancing in college.  

“It’s exciting, It’s nice but we are still doing what we’ve always done and wanted to do,” Sugar Bear dancer and communications major Jordyn Cordova said. 

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The team is student-run with Gina Shepard currently serving as the head coach. Two seniors per year run practices, schedule events, and get the team ready for game day. Emarie Rodriguez and Avery Liley were the two senior dancers given the leadership role this season. Along with leading the girls on game day with the dances, they also show leadership off the court. 

“We wouldn’t be able to do it without them really,” Cordova said. “We all love them so much and we’re gonna miss them when they’re gone. They were great leaders, and even better friends.”

With the change to officially being a part of UNC athletics so recent, most people on campus are not aware of what it takes and what it means to be a Sugar Bear. The team practices multiple times a week to perfect the dances for halftime at football games or breaks at basketball games. Most of the women have dance experience, It is a very competitive team to be a part of.  

“Really we don’t get the love we deserve but that’s okay,” Garcia said. “We’re all here because we love to dance and hopefully in the future more people understand that we’re fully a sports team, not just a club.”

The team is made up of 16-20 dancers hand picked by the coach, sponsors, and captains to represent the school. UNC hosts annual tryouts to give opportunities for any student to have their chance at joining the Sugar Bears. The team hosted a clinic for prospects on Saturday, Mar. 30 and official tryouts for the team will begin on Apr. 12. Each year all new dancers as well as all returning dancers must try out to keep their spot on the team. As the sport gains popularity, the competition will likely increase, advancing the program even further.  

The Sugar Bears will be losing four graduating seniors this year, leaving plenty of room for new members. With the two captains graduating, a new era of leadership will be underway. The team has not yet announced who the new captains will be for next year.  

“I guess my message would be just to come out and give it a try. I’m so thankful for these girls and I think this is a great spot for people who want to keep dancing after highschool,” Garcia said.  

The official mission of the UNC Sugar Bears is, “To support, promote, and represent the University of Northern Colorado through the proper promotion of school spirit, pride, tradition, and student involvement while also creating a safe space for our student-athletes to develop skills in leadership, coaching, and professionalism.” 

“I guess it just gives us structure. Being student comes with a lot of self motivation. We all motivate each other to get better and we stay consistent because we really care and we really are a family at the end of the day,” Garcia said.  

With football and basketball wrapping up for the year, the Sugar Bears will be focusing on regrouping this offseason to come back better than ever next year at the start of sports season.  

The team has started to emerge as a recognizable team on campus and their presence on campus will only grow from here as they continue to showcase their talents.  

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