In the dancing spirit

Power Dancers get new coach with NFL, NBA performing experience

A former member of the Dallas Cowboys Rhythm and Blue Dance Squad will join UTD as the new head coach of the Power Dancers.

Jacy Barney spent a season with the Cowboys from June 2014 to June 2015 and three years with the Los Angeles Clippers before that. In her junior year of high school, she represented the U.S. in Spain at the Dance World Cup as part of the American Dance Team and later went on to win the national title of Miss Dance USA. After graduation, she joined the dance team at Orange Coast College and helped them win the national title her first year there.

With her extensive experience in professional dance, Barney said she wants to build up the prestige of the current squad.

“The main goal is to turn the UTD dance team into a professional team,” she said. “By the way that they look, by the way that they present themselves (and) the way that they entertain the crowd.”

Sophomore dancer Alexis Longoria’s personal goal for the year aligns with Barney’s expectations for the team.

“What I’m looking to gain from (Barney’s) experience is just learning a new level of professionalism and conducting ourselves as if we were already a pro-level team,” she said. “She’ll be able to get us really close to that level.”

Barney was offered the job on Aug. 18 and conducted her first practice a day later.

As part of the interview process for the job, Barney had to lead a class for three returning dancers so they can assess her teaching style and ask her questions such as what she’d change about the team and what her policies would be.

Hayley Briscoe, a sophomore dancer, said that Barney worked on technique with the three dancers and then taught a new routine. They all felt that she was a good fit for the team.

“Out of all the potential coaches we interviewed, we felt … connected with her the most and were really excited about having her be a part of the Power Dancers,” Briscoe said. “She (was) a good combination of everyone that we interviewed. She was fun and outgoing but she (was) able to give us critiques and be strict.”

Longoria said the first practice was important because almost half of the team hadn’t met Barney yet, so they were now able to gauge her teaching style as a unit.

“Jacy’s coaching style was very much precision-oriented and she noticed things and was able to clean things that we had been struggling with previously,” she said. “She has a really keen eye for technique.”

Barney said the main difference she expects between professional dance and collegiate performance is that, in college, the focus will be around campus, on the basketball games and on school spirit. Although the team will be competing in an event hosted by the National Dance Alliance in Daytona, FL, its priority is to be involved in campus events.

Another difference she pointed out was that collegiate dancers must also learn to work the sidelines and entertain the crowd in addition to performing routines.

“It’s easy when music comes on to do the dance that you’ve been taught, but the hardest part probably is when you’re at a game and there’s a random pause,” Barney said. “Your responsibility is to be energetic and keep the crowd entertained.”

Longoria explained that Barney encourages the girls to be as in sync with each other as possible when it comes to dance formations or their makeup for performances.

“The uniformity has definitely changed (from last year) from the dance aspect as well as the appearance aspect,” she said. “Uniformity makes the team and (Barney has) really told us that.”

In terms of new recruitment, Barney isn’t necessarily looking for experience. Instead, she said that someone with a positive attitude and an enthusiasm for dance would make a great addition to the team.

“If there’s someone that’s truly passionate — even if they haven’t been technically trained their whole life but that’s something that they enjoy doing or really want to be a part of and truly do love it and are willing to put themselves out there — they would be a great asset,” she said.

This year, tryouts will determine who will be on the full squad, as well as who will form the competition team that will go to nationals. The team will be more visible on campus this year, Barney said.

“We want them to be something the student body looks forward to watching,” she said. “I think with my experience in the pro world, setting guidelines and higher standards … will automatically take them to that level.”

As the team is undergoing a series of changes, Barney said the challenge is going to be laying the groundwork as smoothly as possible.

“I feel like the dynamic will change (once we have the full team),” she said. “Having new people and new faces and new rules and a new coach … I think that transition period will be a little rocky, but I definitely think that it’ll smooth out.”

While her professional experience has been a major part of her career, Barney expressed enthusiasm about taking a new step at UTD.

“It’s cool that I’ve been on pro teams and things like that, but this is just beyond (expression),” she said. “I can’t even put words together. I’m so excited. This truly is an amazing opportunity and I really am excited to be here and see what we can do with the team.”

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