Leading from the sidelines

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Ethan Epstein/File

Although the focus of Saturday’s homecoming game may be on the football team, it is also one of the biggest events for the Cal Dance Team.

The team has a packed week of homecoming related events — the traditional Thursday night homecoming rally, a noon rally on Sproul Plaza on Friday, another rally Friday night in Wheeler Hall, countless tailgate and reunion events and, of course, the actual homecoming game. During events such as homecoming, the 14-girl team hardly has time to go to class, according to team co-captain Anne Flanigan.

Alongside campus senior Lizzy Rothstein, Flanigan, a campus senior studying media studies, leads her team. She and Rothstein are responsible not only for the traditional roles of team captains, such as keeping up team morale, but also for helping with choreography, leading cheers on the field and coordinating the many smaller events that the team and the rest of the Cal Spirit Groups work. Flanigan said these events include alumni events, tailgates and even birthday parties.

Flanigan is only the second person to ever dance with the Cal Dance Team throughout all four years of college. After being admitted to UC Berkeley when she was a senior in high school, she traveled with her family from her small hometown in southwest Missouri to tour the school. While wandering around Haas Pavilion, she randomly met the director of spirit groups, who told her that auditions for the team were the following weekend. She flew all the way back to California from Missouri to try out.

“I remember being on the plane and having the feeling I would never dance again if I didn’t make it,” Flanigan said.

She made it. And immediately after getting on the team, she went from knowing no one on campus to having a group of 11 friends that felt like a family before she even got off the plane at SFO, she said.

Although her experience having joined as a freshman is unique, she said she doesn’t think it matters at what point someone joins the team — no matter how long they’ve been on, every member feels incredibly connected and well-bonded.

“I don’t think you think as much about who’s been on the team for four years and who has been on for one,” she said. “Three other seniors joined the year after (me), and we’re still so close.”

Not only has the team defined her college experience in terms of her relationships, but also her sense of school spirit. She said almost all of her favorite college memories involve dancing, such as just last weekend when Cal beat Washington State in an upset, sending the whole crowd into an elated uproar. She and the rest of her team got a front row seat to see both the excitement on the field and in the stands — “It’s the most amazing feeling,” she said.

Many former team members have gone on to dance with professional teams. Flanigan says there are currently three former members on the Warriors Dance Team and one on the Oakland Raiderettes Team, and one just finished up dancing for the Los Angeles Clippers. She’s not sure if she will have the time to continue, but as she will be working in San Francisco after graduation, she is strongly considering audition for the 49ers Gold Rush.  

Although her the entirety of her future may not be set in stone, she knows that her Cal spirit will remain constant.  

“I’m already looking forward to the day that I can bring my kids to a Cal football game and dress them up in blue and gold,” Flannigan said. “(The Cal community) feels like family.”

Contact Pressly Pratt at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @presslypratt.