Music blasted from a ballroom as a group of women lingered in the hallway, some practicing the dance they were about to perform at the Spokane Shock dance team tryouts Sunday.
The Shock, a member of the Indoor Football League, is returning to Spokane in March after a two-year hiatus.
About 30 women showed up for tryouts to represent the reborn team bright and early Sunday morning, competing for about 15 to 18 open spots. The dancers had 20 minutes to learn the audition routine, then danced in groups of three for the directors.
Members of the dance team are half performers and half spokeswomen for the team, appearing at community events and riling up the crowd during games, said Maggie Kazemba, one of the dance team’s directors.
“I feel … excited, but I feel a certain amount of pressure, too, because the Spokane community remembers what the Shock is all about,” said Cassie Maher, dance team director.
For 23-year-old dancer Rachael Householder, auditioning for the Shock was a chance to have a dance family again.
“I actually work full time in Idaho, in Post Falls, and so I don’t really know anybody in Spokane,” Householder said. “When I found out that Shock was coming back and there was going to be a dance team, I was really excited.”
Householder has been dancing since she could barely walk. She danced on a competitive dance team in high school before becoming a Crimson Girl at Washington State University.
After graduating from WSU in 2018, she moved to Lewiston to coach dance there.
“It was so hard. I felt so separated from everything,” Householder said.
When she moved to Post Falls last year, she didn’t think she would dance again.
“I missed having that dance family,” Householder said of why she decided to try out. “Even if I don’t make it, I’m just happy that I did it and happy that I tried.”
The people deciding if Householder makes it are Maher and Kazemba, who both teach at Spokane Elite Dance Studio and have been a part of directing previous Spokane Shock and Spokane Empire dance teams.
Emily Drake, director of marketing and communications for the Shock, was also on hand to help select the dancers.
“I look for girls who will entertain the crowd and be able to have good conversations with people,” said Maher.
While dance experience isn’t required, being able to pick up choreography quickly is important, said Kazemba.
After the first round of performances, the directors tallied up scores and made their first round of cuts. Then came interviews where the directors assessed how the dancers’ values fit with the organization.
“When we get to our interviews, I’m looking for people we can hold a conversation with, because that’s going to be such a huge part for them out in the community,” said Kazemba.
One person who knows what representing the Shock can be like is 36-year-old Tarah Johnson.
Johnson danced one season for the Shock prior to their hiatus.
“It was super sad to see, because it’s such an icon,” Johnson said of the team disbanding.
Johnson and her husband, along with their two sons, moved away for a few years and just recently returned to the area. Johnson is a biology professor at North Idaho College, and her youngest son just started kindergarten. When Johnson heard that the Shock were coming back, her newly flexible schedule made it the perfect time to try out again.
“I love being part of a team,” Johnson said. “I love building the girls up and just making us a unit. That’s been one of my favorite things that I think that I miss.”
All Shock dancers have to be over the age of 18 before they can dance in their first game. Most dancers are in their early to mid-20s, making Johnson an outlier.
“I think age is a number, and I thank God every day that I have the ability to still do this, and I’m literally going to do it until I can’t anymore,” Johnson said.
The final Spokane Shock dance team will be selected and announced Thursday night. The team will take the field for the first time at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 26 when the Shock host the San Diego Strike Force.
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