Author: Colleen McDermott
Major: Writing Seminars/Pre-Med
A Mile in the (Jazz) Shoes (and various other costume pieces) of a JHU Ladybird
I’ve always been a dancer. To my mom’s horror I used to “play ballerina” when I was little by jumping up and down on our coffee table or spinning until I was dizzy in our kitchen (I hadn’t yet learned the art of spotting while doing turns.) The logical parental move was obviously to put me in dance class, and I couldn’t have been more excited as I envisioned wearing pink tutus and sequins galore onstage at the recital. However, I grew up in Utah, and unfortunately 1996 was the state centennial so instead of the pink I’d been imagining I was stuck doing pliés in a gray pioneer dress complete with a bonnet and pinafore… but somehow even the fact that I had to wear a pioneer dress on three separate occasions during my young dance career (I know, my state is SO WEIRD.) didn’t keep me from dancing on my high school’s dance company.
So naturally, one of my first orders of business when I decided to come to Hopkins was to find out where I could dance here. During the summer I saw a flier for “Ladybirds Dance Team Auditions”, and when I went to check out the O-Dance Show during orientation week with my roommate (Who currently dances with another dance group, Jaywalk.) I was definitely impressed. The Ladybirds are the official dance team of JHU, and perform at football, basketball, and of course, lacrosse games during the year. I knew I could see myself dancing at halftime with them, so I took like seven tryout fliers back to Wolman with me after the Student Activities fair!
I had been nervous for auditions, but overall they had seemed to go well. There was no phone call, no email, no text, nothing, by nine pm the next day, so I was starting to feel a little discouraged about my chances of making the team. All of a sudden I heard someone banging on my door. “Colleen!!! Get you stuff and come with us! No talking!” a group of girls dressed in all black, and wearing masks yelled when I opened the door. I nervously obeyed and followed my captors around campus as they repeated the same bizarre scenario in Building B and the AMRs, collecting more bewildered freshmen at each stop. We marched off campus, down W. University for what seemed like ages, and finally stopped at an apartment in the Carlisle. One of the girls instructed us to “make up a dance with four counts of eight and come back in when it’s done”.
We did as instructed and when we walked in to perform our “dance” we were greeted with cupcakes, a “Welcome Babybirds” sign, and brand new “JHU Ladybirds Dance Team” t-shirts. The other team members took off the masks and introduced themselves and informed us we had practice on Tuesday. This whole bizarre night was how I found out I’d made the team, so I definitely couldn’t expect actually being a Ladybird to be any less interesting.
That first semester on the team I learned dances to “Telephone/Bad Romance”, “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera (Which we performed in honor of breast cancer awareness at the Parent’s Show. My aunt and uncle even drove down from Philly to be my “parents” for that performance! ) as well as a medley of Michael Jackson songs for Culture Show. I also learned how strange the JHU halter top tan line looks after standing out at the football game for three hours!
By the spring I had worked up the courage to choreograph a piece of my own for our Spring Concert. The idea of leading rehearsal and teaching a contemporary piece to upperclassmen was a little bit intimidating, but I was amazed at how awesome and respectful everyone was, and the dance turned out just as I’d pictured it.
Spring was also lacrosse season. I couldn’t get over the number of people that were at the Hopkins vs. Navy game, which was televised on ESPNU. My mom sent me this text afterward: “JUST SAW YOU ON TV! SO PROUD! By the way, love your hair in the humidity.” (Thanks, Baltimore…)
I can’t imagine not being a part of Ladybirds, because it’s such an integral part of my experience here at Hopkins. It’s not only the dancing that’s important either, but the memories I have outside of the studio. There’s never been any drama within the team while I’ve been here and I love just going to practice to see everyone because we’ve become so close as a team. Leave it to the Ladybirds to decide to go on a spray-tanning adventure in Towson (and hopefully avoid turning orange), participate in a flash mob on the beach to LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem”, and somewhat seriously contemplate using the rain ponchos as future costumes while working as move-in assistants during orientation week.
Wherever we go, dance is always a part of who we are. Most of us watch “Dance Moms” religiously and love gossiping about Abby Lee Miller during practice. My friends Joanne and Ally and I couldn’t help doing various jumps in front of the WWII Memorial when we went to DC last spring. And while watching “Dance Moms” one night, we found the Baltimore Ravens’ Dance Team ad on Facebook and may have seriously discussed the prospect of trying out in March. (Stay tuned.)
Dancing is our common link, but we’re hardly all the same. The Ladybirds represent all four pan-hellenic sororities (Alpha Phi, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Phi Mu and Pi Beta Phi) as well as the engineering fraternity, Theta Tau. I love hearing about what everyone is involved with outside of dance. Ally has stories about barely surviving Ranger Challenge at ROTC, I talk about how the club soccer team made 18 U-turns on our way to our last tournament, Keryce, Dionna, and Amanda perform with the hip hop group SLAM as well, and of course Jean still sends us pictures of her fat cat Toby (Our unofficial team mascot!) from Princeton where she goes to grad school.
I can’t imagine my life without dancing, and now it’s safe to say that I can’t imagine Hopkins without Ladybirds.