Dancing like nobody’s watching, literally

What is it like to be a dancer or cheerleader during the pandemic?


Photo taken by Janet Olivares.

Megan Baker, Staff Writer

As a result of COVID-19 and safety protocols, athletes everywhere have been struggling to make the adjustment of playing in empty stadiums, hitting home runs and scoring touchdowns in an atmosphere void of the typical thunderous applause from fans. 

Many sports and teams have produced creative ways to keep the players motivated and remind them of their fans rooting them on from home. Football games place cardboard cutouts of fans in the stadiums, baseball games play soundtracks of cheering and applause over a loudspeaker, and tennis matches play clips of smiling fans on the jumbotrons. Most sports seem to have adapted well to the vacant stadiums and uncertainty of this time; but some sports heavily focus on interacting with the fans, so how has the pandemic affected them?

Despite the lack of a crowd or fanbase present at most events during this time, Rochester High School’s cheerleaders and dancers remain on the sidelines, rooting on their classmates at the games. Due to Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) regulations, the number of spectators allowed for events has been extremely limited. For the Falcon cheer and dance teams, it’s been a difficult adjustment to make.

“Cheering without a crowd is a huge bummer. One of the best parts about cheering games is firing up and interacting with the student section,” senior and cheerleader Moira Yee said. “It feels weird not to be able to see all of our schoolmates’ faces or have fun cheering with them at the games.”

During the fall, the cheer and dance teams’ sole focus sets on attending games and cheering/dancing on the sidelines. Yet, a large aspect of this includes performing for an audience and firing up a crowd. Without fans to interact with, a massive part in the role of a dancer or cheerleader is missing.

“When there’s no crowd at all, it’s hard to get our energy levels up as a team,” senior and dancer Megan Kabel said. “We really like to feed off of the energy that the crowd creates, so it’s difficult not having that.”

Although all of the athletes can agree that going from a full student section to a vacant set of bleachers is a tough adjustment to make, it’s certainly not impossible. The cheer team in particular expressed that they don’t let it affect their performance at all because they’re used to working with a wide range of different sporting events and competitions. Nonetheless, all of the athletes persevere and make the best of the situation. 

“We’re used to cheering in a variety of different situations. While it’s still not the same as a normal game we make it work,” Yee said. “If we keep looking on the bright side of things, we can still have a great season.”

After spending the majority of the fall sports season performing in front of vacant bleachers, there may be a bit of a happy ending for the athletes after all. As of Oct. 8, the capacity for outdoor events is limited to 30 percent of the fixed seating capacity. The tickets are given to the participants in the events to distribute to their friends, family, and Falcon fans. Both the cheerleaders and dancers are excited to have some fans back. 

“We’re making the best with what we do have,” Yee said, “and we’re thankful that we get to participate in games this year at all.”