What dreams are made of

Senior makes the Scarlets at Lincoln


Photo courtesy of Maddy Unger

Madeline Unger Dances to the Millard West Fight Song at a football game performed by the school’s band. “What I look forward to the most as a Scarlet is being a part of the program’s first year getting back into competing at UDA College Nationals. I also am so excited to perform at football games in Memorial Stadium.”

Jasmine Hermosillo-Padilla, Editor-in-Chief Catalyst Online

Thousands of screaming fans in all red, rowdy and ready for game day,  rally together in the stands anxious for the football season to start. Another favorite of all Nebraska fans is the Spirit Squad, including The Scarlet Dance Team that brings exciting performances to the sideline and center court at a variety of sporting events. Senior Madeline Unger found out on May 3 that she would soon be joining them for the upcoming season.

From the age of four, Unger began dancing at Fusion Dance Studio until she was 15 before continuing on to her high school team.  After her season competing and receiving second place at her last National competition, she decided to put her dancing skills to the test and try out for the University of Nebraska’s Dance Team, The Scarlets. 

“It’s been such an honor and joy to watch Maddy grow as a person and dancer since her freshman year,” Millard West Varsity Dance coach Laura Pickett said. “She has always been extremely committed, but over the years I loved watching her continue to grow as a leader. I think she is going to excel tremendously as a Scarlet, representing Husker red and cheering alongside the best fans in the country.”

The skills she acquired throughout the duration of her dance career helped her with the rigorous audition process. Starting on April 5th, 57 dancers participated in a month-long series of various tasks. There were three rounds of virtual tryouts for the season. Each candidate had to be assessed by the expertise in their jazz and hip-hop routines. Following the choreography aspect, the girls needed to learn and record traditions and participate in a personal interview with a committee that selects the team. 

“​We look for a lot of different qualities,” Head Spirit Squad Coach Erynn Butzke said.” The five areas we consider in our evaluation are talent/skill, interview, academics, character/ambassadorship and overall impression. The Scarlets are expected to be incredible dancers, engaging performers, excellent teammates, committed students and positive role models in the community.”

After each round, dancers were cut from the process to get the team down to 28 girls for finals and eventually to the top 20 for the team. Unger was only one of two freshmen to make the 2021 team. 

“I felt pretty nervous throughout the tryout process, but I just knew that if I gave my best, I wouldn’t have any regrets,” Unger said. “I love to dance with my whole heart, and performing in front of a crowd is one of my favorite things to do, so I just want to continue to grow as a dancer and master new skills each chance that I get.”

With various requirements, such as elite technical dance skills and a willingness to be a teamplayer and contributor to the program among other requirements, the process to become a member of the team can be a difficult task. With Unger training from the age of 4, she has been able to practice her skills for 14 years to prepare her to dance at a collegiate level. 

“Maddy has impacted not only me, but our team by stepping up into a leader position this season especially as a senior,” former dance teammate junior Paige Seasted said. “She led our team through positivity, determination, motivation, and so much more. She definitely set an influence for the rest of us going into next season.”

With the upcoming season, Unger strives to  be the best dancer she can be and continues to push herself to improve as a dancer for her first season turning in the black and green for red and white to start her new journey as a Husker.