Amid the flashing lights, thumping music and fanfare of USF Athletic events is the official USF dance team, the SunDolls, who have been a fixture of the spectacle since its inception in 1997.
For the first 24 years of its history, the SunDolls was an all-female team. That is until 2021 when the first ‘SunDude,’ freshman Sean Agustin, burst through the door to his own beat.
“When I [first became aware of] the SunDolls, I did research on it,” Agustin said. “It said on the website ‘an all-girls dance team,’ so I didn’t think I was going to make it. But my family and friends from back home told me to just do it. And I made the team.”
With 15 years of dance experience in genres such as jazz and hip hop under his belt, Agustin is long past any feelings of not belonging or being out of his element.
“I grew up as the only guy in my dance studio,” he said. “So, [by the time I joined the SunDolls], I was pretty used to it.”
When he’s not starring in halftime shows or putting in work in the studio, Agustin is studying toward a degree in biology. However, he has no plans of choosing one over the other, instead hoping to teach dance while also becoming a chiropractor.
Agustin has been a part of the team since May 2021, weeks before graduating high school.
In circumstances where a heavily-rehearsed and choreographed sport like dance might suffer, Agustin took advantage of the virtual auditions brought on by the pandemic by perfecting his routine.
What stood out about Agustin was not the novelty of a male student auditioning for the all-girls group, but his dance technique, versatility and sheer charisma that bled through the screen.
“Literally the first time I opened his audition videos, I was like ‘Oh my god, yes. No question [about it],’” coach Jada Davis said. “I can always count on him to give 110%, like the full experience. Not just dancing, but facials, attitude, all of that.”
Junior Savannah Sides, one of four team captains, revealed there had been previous interest from other male students in joining the ranks of the SunDolls.
To the rest of his team, Agustin is more than just the first SunDude, he is essential to the group.
“We don’t see [Sean] as a guy on the team,” Sides said. “We see him as a strong, amazing dancer and an awesome teammate.”
Despite the abundance of questions and unknowns that come with being the first SunDude, the toughest barrier to break was purely cosmetic, according to Davis.
“[Getting Sean] a uniform was the biggest challenge,” she said. “[The supplier] didn’t have the materials or options for him. And I’m like ‘Well I need you guys to catch up, because [Sean] needs his stuff.’”
When Agustin and the SunDolls take center stage for their routine, he might draw attention as the only member clad in a T-shirt and shorts rather than a crop top and skirt, but once the music starts, he becomes a seamless part of the team.
“[Sean] does a really, really good job of just fitting in and dancing like us and not standing out in a way that’s eye-catching in a bad way,” Sides said. “He’s eye-catching in such a good way, his energy is off the charts.”
With the combination of his raw ability and charisma, Agustin has not only been blending in with the SunDolls, he’s been standing out to those watching him perform.
Agustin’s talent has caught the attention of plenty around the community, according to Sides, who is proud of what this could mean for the future of the team.
“The amount of people that have come to me this year [about him is incredible],” she said. “They’re like, that guy is amazing. So I’m very optimistic that people that have always considered maybe trying out for the team but didn’t have the courage to be the first [SunDude] will see [Sean] and see that he’s paving the way for them in the future.”
Although he may not see himself as a trendsetter, Agustin is aware that his presence on the team gives him a platform for others to follow in his footsteps.
“[We look for] a strong dancer, technique-wise,” Sides said. “If you’re a good teammate, regardless of gender, you deserve to be on this team.”