New silver pom poms, uniforms and bedazzled rhinestone shoes are just a few of the eye-catching differences to the newly rebranded UNC-Chapel Hill dance team — the Carolina Girls.
Since its founding in 1985, the dance team has gone by several names: The High Kicking Heels, the UNC Dance Team and now the Carolina Girls. Under this new name, the dance team is adapting a new look, style and presence at UNC-CH.
Jeffrey Fuchs, director of university bands, now oversees the Carolina Girls. Fuchs has been at UNC-CH since 1995, and he said his greatest joy in his job has always been the students he works with. Now with the merging of dancers into the band family, Fuchs said his primary concern is the girls' happiness.
“The vision is for the kids to be happy, for them not to have body image concerns, for them to perform very well, for them to be something that demands the attention of the audience,” Fuchs said. “I want them to be something they can be proud of and something the university can be proud of. I want something that the little girls can look up to, that parents don’t have to hide their children’s eyes from moves they are doing. I want something their daddies can be proud watching them do — I want them to be professional.”
Currently, the Carolina Girls will travel for away football games and for outings with the full band. Fuchs said that there are some unanswered questions about whether the Carolina Girls will be able to dance at away basketball games, or at national championships. Fuchs said he promises the girls will be no worse off than in previous years. Part of this assurance lies in the hiring of coaches Summer Renner and Cory Morgan.
Renner danced at Florida State University and was a Radio City Rockette for seven years. She has since opened a dance studio in Chapel Hill named Renner Dance Company. Morgan danced at UNC-Charlotte and has been teaching for more than 20 years. Morgan and Renner teach together at Renner Dance Company.
Moving away from a focus on a pom style of dance, Morgan and Renner are weaving more jazz, contemporary and hip hop into their choreography. Performances before kickoff and during halftime will consist of these diverse styles. The Carolina Girls will still perform a pom style of dance on the sidelines at games.
Morgan and Renner coach the team of 28 girls at their practices on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and work with Fuchs for the tandem practices with the marching band on Fridays before football games.
“They are innate leaders,” Morgan said of the dancers. “They are responsible, organized, respectful and they get along really well, which makes it an easy transition as coaches.”
One of the big differences for the dancers this year is their new pre-game performance to the song “Carolina Girls,” played by the band before each kickoff.
This year the Carolina Girls will not perform at the National Dance Alliance (NDA), a national collegiate dance competition, instead focusing on technique and cleaning and redefining their role at UNC-CH. Morgan and Renner said they will perform at NDA again in the spring of 2021 and that their long term focus is on transforming the Carolina Girls into a solid representation of UNC-CH at the national level.
Senior Taylor Hobgood said the transition to working more closely with the marching band has been smooth.
“We have gained a whole group of extra people supporting us, and we support the band too,” Hobgood said. “It already feels like a family.”
Hobgood said the presence of the dance team feels more tangible now. The energy from dancing at the football game in Charlotte against South Carolina and at the home game versus Miami propels the Carolina Girls to continue doing what they love.
“In general, being able to represent the university for four years has been an honor and privilege,” Hobgood said. “I can’t find anything negative to say about this merge. I think for the present and future it will be wildly beneficial. I am lucky to have the opportunity to experience this rebranding and to experience the positive outcome it has brought and will continue to bring.”
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