Devil dancing for millions — EVHS team performs for 2019 Sugar Bowl halftime show
Eagle Valley High School 2018-19 Devil Dancers
Tristin Book - Choreography Captain
Kaitlyn Cooper - Community Captain
Paige Green - Character Captain
Taylor Shroll - Cohesion Captain
GYPSUM — The Eagle Valley High School Devil Dancers have a lot of experience with marching out on a football field to perform a halftime show.
But they don’t normally do it in front of a live crowd numbering more than 71,000 people and a television audience numbering in the millions.
On New Year’s Day, nine members of the Devil Dancers team performed during the Sugar Bowl halftime show in New Orleans. While the rest of the country followed the Texas Longhorns 28-21 upset victory over the Georgia Bulldogs, local viewers scanned their television screens to see if they could spot the Devil Dancers.
For the record, the EVHS girls led the dancing corps — featuring teams from throughout the United States — out on the field.
The 10-member varsity Devil Dancers team earned a spot in the Sugar Bowl halftime show by submitting an audition tape featuring previous dance performances and compiling information about their community service and school service activities. From there a selection committee issued 18 invitations.
“Only five of the 18 teams were high school dance teams,” said Devil Dancers coach Cindy Ramunno. “The other teams were from studios or were cheer teams.”
After receiving their Sugar Bowl invitation, the girls got busy fundraising. The trip to New Orleans cost around $1,800 per dancer.
“I know it taps out our community any time we do something like this,” Ramunno said. “We were very grateful for all that support.”
Gratitude is a theme with this particular group of girls, Ramunno noted.
“Our girls were so grateful to be there and you could see it,” she said.
Not a lot of down time
New Orleans is widely recognized as a fun spot to party, but the Devil Dancers spent the majority of their five-day trip in the practice room.
“My girls were sore every night. They had rehearsals and master classes to attend so they didn’t have a lot of down time,” Ramunno said.
For the show, the girls danced to music performed by a group of high school musicians.
“That was a challenge for them,” Ramunno said. “Some of them had to change the way they learn choreography. They had to step out of their comfort zones.”
They also had to adapt to last minute choreography changes.
“I do that to them all the time, but other teams weren’t used to that and they just crumbled,” Ramunno said.
“The toughest part about the experience was probably the long practices,” Taylor Shroll, senior and co-captain, said. “While they were long, it was still a lot of fun as the choreographers were super fun and energetic and they made everyone there feel that they played a huge part in the performance coming together.”
After four long practice days, the Devil Dancers were singled out for a special honor. They were the first dancers to step on the field for the Sugar Bowl halftime performance.
“They ended up in the front line coming out of the tunnel because their personalities just stood out — their sparkle, energy and just overall grateful attitude,” Ramunno said. “It was so unexpected and cool to get to lead everyone onto the field.”
“My favorite memory from the trip was the performance,” co-captain Paige Green said. “I loved the dance and working with my team and the choreographers. It was incredible looking at the huge crowd during the dance and just feeling the insane amount of energy that encompassed the stadium.”
“The toughest part about the performance was trying to control my nerves before and at the beginning of the dance,” Green said. “But once I got out on the field I was able to relax and enjoy every second of it.”
“As a dancer, having the opportunity to dance on a large stage like that and work with such influential people was awesome,” senior and co-captain Tristin Book said. “I think the toughest part was making everything unified between all the different teams and the band, but we all worked well together and it looked great in the end.”
The team did manage to enjoy some of New Orleans’ famed cuisine and the girls developed a love for beignets. On New Year’s Eve, they enjoyed a French Quarter adventure.
Before she took off for New Orleans with a troop of teenage girls, Ramunno arranged for a self defense class with Vail Police Sgt. Luke Causey. Causey grew up in New Orleans and his father lives in the French Quarter. At about 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 31 Causey called Ramunno to see how the girls were enjoying his hometown. Ramunno mentioned where they were and asked if he could suggest where they could find a restroom. Causey sent the team to his dad’s house.
“My favorite memory of the trip is when we got to go on the rooftop of Sgt. Causey’s dad’s house,” Shroll said. “From the rooftop we could see the Florida Georgia Line concert as well as the fireworks over the Mississippi River. It was a surreal experience.”
“New Orleans is so different, it’s almost like visiting a different country,” Ramunno said.
“Being a history buff, it was really fun to learn about the history of the city while walking around and on tours. It was also great to experience the high energy and activities the city has to offer,” Green said.
“My favorite aspect of New Orleans was the vintage feel. The old buildings are beautiful and the history of the city is amazing,” Shroll said.
Thoughts of home
While the girls were enjoying the trip of a lifetime, their thoughts often drifted back home. Their classmate Megan Lodge died Dec. 26 in a car accident near Eagle, just two days before they left town.
“Two of my girls were close friends of Megan’s. One of them decided to stay home and one of them decided to go on the trip. I am proud of both of them,” Ramunno said. “They made different decisions about how to handle their grief,” she continued, “and the girls all learned that people don’t grieve the same way, and that is OK.”
From the team’s performance at the Sugar Bowl, to hard work in rehearsal to the team’s actions while out on the streets of New Orleans, Ramunno said she felt a lot of Devil Dancers pride this week.
“They represent the very best of what our school and community is all about,” Ramunno concluded.
When the Vail Town Council on Tuesday night upheld an Aug. 26 Planning and Environmental Commission decision to approve a housing project in East Vail, it cleared the way for a final town approval, and more work.