As a SunDoll, celebrating with fans in a crowded stadium when the USF football team scores a touchdown is expected on game days.
However, the coronavirus pandemic may have other plans for the team this year as there might not be any fans to celebrate with come fall. Still, the SunDolls are pressing on, and Lauren Farr, a captain of the dance team, is ready to adapt.
“We’re still kind of in the dark and waiting just like everyone else,” Farr said. “We’re preparing as if kickoff is going to be when it’s set to be. If for some reason it gets pushed back, we have to adapt.”
In a normal setting, the SunDolls already would have held in-person tryouts in May, then from June to July, the new team would learn sideline dances while captains attended national dance conventions to prepare their routines for fall and spring performances.
That wasn’t the case this year. The team held virtual auditions for the 2020-21 team.
“We did all of our auditions completely virtual which was really weird for me because auditions are one of the best parts of the year,” Farr said. “We didn’t even really get to meet the girls who were auditioning, and it was kind of like everyone was in the dark and no one really knew what was going on.”
Prospective SunDolls had multiple chances to perfect their video auditions, some had unconventional dance spaces and returning dancers did not have a chance to interact with their potential teammates.
“It is important to be able to interact with these new people. It’s also challenging for people to find space to film their videos,” Farr said. “I was lucky enough that I had my home studio but other people were in their backyard or in their garage. That’s not always the best place for dance. I think it affected everyone a little bit [with] video. You can do things as many times as you want to get it perfect. In an in-person audition, you have one shot.”
Meanwhile, the annual Pro Action Dance conventions set to be held in Atlanta and Las Vegas were altered. The convention in Atlanta will be virtual, which means longer hours in areas that might not be ideal for dance.
“I’m going to be on my computer for like five hours learning dances,” Farr said. “As of right now, [Pro-Dance Las Vegas] haven’t announced if it’s going to be online. But per the university, we will not be traveling.”
Despite unusual circumstances, the SunDolls are still smiling and preparing for kickoff as normal by beginning to clean up sideline routines with new team members.
“Our coaches are trying to be as positive and upbeat as possible,” Farr said. “We’re acting like it’s going to be completely normal. We started cleaning our sideline routines with our rookies. Right now we’re [practicing] on Zoom so we can have them prepared for the season.”
If there was the possibility of football being pushed back to start in the winter as opposed to the fall, the SunDolls would have a lot on their plate.
“Basketball season is very busy,” Farr said. “If for some reason football got pushed back and it was colliding with basketball it would be absolutely insane.”
On top of basketball season, the SunDolls would be preparing to compete in Nationals, which usually takes place during spring break. In an unconventional setting of football being pushed, they would find a way to perform at all events as that is what they are trained to do.
“We have to adapt because that’s our job,” Farr said. “If that’s what we’re told to do, that’s what we’re going to do.”
A smaller audience in the stadium is not the ideal situation, according to Farr, but they are primed to dance regardless of what the coronavirus decides to do.
“Our industry is always kind of up in the air and it would be so weird with the atmosphere [where] we could only fill stadiums at 25 percent,” she said.
“Me and my other captains’ personal goal is to just be as positive as we can, be as uplifting as we can and also be a resource to the rest of our team,” Farr said. “The rookies coming in [are] coming in at such a weird time. It’s going to be completely different for them. Even our coaches, no one really knows what’s going to happen.
“It’s just really important for us to be flexible and positive so that we can get through this and adapt to whatever USF or the NCAA throws at us.”
For the full conversation with Lauren Farr, watch The Oracle Sports Podcast with Nolan Brown and Hannah Halili, which premieres Monday.