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UNC women's gymnastics floor routine music varies from Brazilian samba to Beyoncé

UNC junior Bella Miller on the floor during the meet against N.C. State at Carmichael Arena on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. UNC fell to N.C. State 195.325 to 196.225

In deciding the song mix she’d use for this season's floor routine, the choice for UNC junior gymnast Bella Miller was obvious: all Beyoncé instrumentals.

“Beyoncé’s a queen, and obviously, that's kind of what I want to instill as I'm getting onto the floor," Miller said.

Every time an announcer calls Miller’s name during pregame introductions, she waves to the crowd and places an imaginary crown on her head. As she kneels and ends her floor routine, she sets the crown on her head again.

Queen instilled? Check.

UNC junior all-around Bella Miller poses at the end of her floor routine during the meet against Pitt in Carmichael Arena on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. UNC won with a score of 196.650-196.125.

Every year, gymnasts decide what vibe they want their floor routine to represent. Especially in college gymnastics, this event — and the music underscoring it — allows gymnasts room to dance and express themselves in between their tumbling passes. 

UNC's gymnasts bring their inspiration to assistant coach Marie Denick, who coordinates floor routines. Denick makes a running list of everyone’s ideas, splits it up and decides what music fits best with certain athletes. 

Creating floor music is intricate and time-consuming, especially since the music cannot have any words in it. Still, Denick said she has fun bringing everything together for her athletes.

Most of the dance is catchy, and UNC's gymnasts on the sideline often perform certain poses in sync with the competitor.

“The person who is competing gets energy from the person on the sideline, and the sideline people also get energy from the person competing," Denick said.

Denick said she especially enjoys coordinating routines for junior Julia Knower, who changes her theme every year. This year, Brazilian samba from the movie “Rio” inspired Knower’s floor music — namely the song “Hot Wings.”

UNC junior all-around Julia Knower during her floor routine at the UNC gymnastics meet versus N.C. State in Carmichael Arena on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. UNC lost 195.325-196.225.

“I just have really good memories with that song in the locker room before meets with the team,” Knower said.

Knower didn’t consider herself the best dancer in high school, and as a result, felt she couldn’t immerse herself into her routines. In college, though, she embraced her style of dance — intense rather than artistic. Her routine includes several head nods and crossed arms to get her in the right groove.

Sophomore Kaya Forbes likes to get the crowd involved with her routine. Elements such as a record scratch, a jump shot and getting the crowd to clap along with the music help Forbes take her "mind off of being nervous."

UNC sophomore all-around Kaya Forbes during her floor routine at the UNC gymnastics meet versus N.C. State in Carmichael Arena on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. UNC lost 195.325-196.225.

“It’s just so much more fun than ever,” Forbes said. 

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Forbes’ routine connects to her home state of Louisiana, with part of the music referencing the Saints. 

In this way, the floor exercise gives gymnasts a chance to make their routines personally meaningful. Last year, Knower’s music mix was mainly rock music. Knower picked songs she said she listened to with her dad on days where it was just the two of them on a boat together. 

Knower’s dad always wanted her to do a routine to rock music.

“I kept it [a secret] from him for a long time,” Knower said. “He heard it first when he came up for Parents’ Weekend, so that was really special to me.”

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