Redsteppers let 27 women continue passion for performance


IU Red Steppers perform a routine during the team's Big Ten opener against Michigan on Oct. 2 at Memorial Stadium. Alex Farris Buy Photos

With the slight scuffing of white tennis shoes, two lines of IU Redsteppers becomes a half circle formation in a quick eight-count move. It wasn’t perfect, but it’s only practice and the football game is away, so there’s not as much urgency as normal.

The 25 dancers on the team work on the routine on their own, with the older members helping the younger ones. The two alternates for the squad work on the dance behind the other Redsteppers.

“I need you guys to get it so I can see it,” head coach Janis Cooper Parker said.

This time the music is added to help get the rhythm.

“That wasn’t bad,” Cooper Parker said.

During their practices from 4:10 to 5:45 p.m. every weekday, the Redsteppers work on their feature routine for the halftime show, as well as other dances they perform on the sidelines throughout the game. The group is the only officially recognized dance team that performs during halftime shows of home football games with the Marching Hundred.

On days with home football games, the squad will be on their feet for about 10 hours. However, Saturday was their last home performance for the year.

“It’s a pretty long week because Monday through Friday and then all day basically Saturday, whether it’s a noon game or a night game,” sophomore Redstepper Sarah Hurdle said. “It’s pretty much taken up.”

Senior Suzanne Gardner said the time commitment is the hardest part about being a Redstepper.

“You’re trying to balance it with school work and then a job or volunteer activities, you know, whatever you need to do on a daily basis,” Gardner said. “But it’s completely worth it in the end.”

Anyone is allowed to try out for the team in the fall or spring, but a strong dance background is suggested. Returning members also have to try out again.

“You’re not necessarily guaranteed a spot on the team just because you made it one year,” Hurdle said.

Gardner and Hurdle were both involved with dance since they were three years old and agree that their dance background helped them make the team. Gardner said most of the Redsteppers have experience in dance, cheerleading or color guard.

“Coming from any of those three backgrounds is a great strength for the team because you already have the basic knowledge of dance,” Gardner said. “It definitely helped me to have a variety of dance in my background.”

Senior Redstepper Megan Mitchell was involved with cheerleading and theater in high school and wanted to stay active in college.

“We just like to dance and this is our alley to do so at school,” Mitchell said. “It helps fill that void that you have to performance.”

The women on the squad see each other every day except Sundays during football season, so most of them have become close friends.

“I just felt really at home right when I got here because I had a great group of friends and from there I branched out,” Hurdle, who joined the squad her freshman year, said. “That was the best part, and it still is.”

Gardner said she’s sad to be leaving this year.

“Once you’ve done it for so many years with the same girls, they kind of become like your sisters, and they’re my best friends,” she said. “So I’m definitely going to miss it when I graduate.”

In addition to the strong connection between the women, one of the signature traits is their red boots.

“Anytime anyone hears about the Redsteppers, they always picture the red boots,” Gardner said. “They’re our signature look.”

Every member receives a pair of the boots that they keep until the end of the season. The women usually wear the boots for their halftime performance.

“They do have a little bit of a heel on them, which makes it a little bit challenging to dance in them, but we absolutely love them,” Gardner said.

The boots are property of the Marching Hundred, so they have to be returned every year, but the squad continues to use them.

“They are very legit — shipped from Germany and we absolutely love them,” Gardner said. “We’ll probably keep them forever.”

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