CEDAR FALLS — Nearly every year, several of Alyssa Nolte’s students receive invitations to perform at a nationally televised football bowl game’s halftime show. Most years they decline.
The last time 12 of the girls on the Cedar Falls Dance Team went to a bowl game was four years ago in Miami.
“It’s so expensive,” Nolte said, noting the high school-affiliated team has to raise thousands of dollars to travel. “And we try to balance with band and cheer and other groups, so we’re not trying to all go at the same time.”
But this year, with 20 girls getting invitations to perform at the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day — nearly all of her squad, save for the freshmen — Nolte couldn’t let the team decline the invitations.
“This year, having 20, I said I can’t really ignore that many kids being recognized,” she said.
So she’s taking those 20 to Orlando Dec. 27-Jan. 2 for the halftime performance, plus trips to Disney World and Universal Studios for good measure.
The Citrus Bowl, a Big 10/SEC conference matchup that this year is between Kentucky and Penn State, will be played at noon Jan. 1 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. It will be broadcast on ABC.
The team got invites thanks to their efforts at a July dance camp held in Des Moines and put on by Marching Auxiliaries in Plano, Texas, which in addition to training dancers at summer camps around the country also is contracted to provide halftime entertainment at several bowl games per year, according to Marching Auxiliaries’ website.
Nolte said Marching Auxiliaries then chooses standout dancers from those camps for an invitation to one of the halftime performances.
“The instructors at this camp look for students and athletes who are working hard (and) outperforming their peers,” she said, noting dancers can get “all-star” or “rising star” awards. “If they receive one of those special recognition awards, they are invited.”
Around 500 dancers will perform as a group in the Citrus Bowl’s halftime show, including nearly all of the Cedar Falls Dance Team — 20 out of 23 were invited.
“In fact, all but our freshmen are going — which is not surprising when you’re a freshman,” Nolte said.
The Cedar Falls High School girls learned two routines of six minutes each for the 12-minute halftime show, which this year is an homage to Tina Turner, a singer and dancer best known for 1980s hits “What’s Love Got to Do With It” and “Private Dancer.”
Nolte said the cost per student is around $1,700, meaning the team had to raise well over $30,000 for the trip, which they did through several fundraisers and events since July. But Nolte said it will all be worth it.
“It’s almost a life-changing experience to dance in front of 80,000 people in an NFL-sized stadium,” she said. “It’s really just something you’ll probably never get to do again.”
Nolte said those wanting to follow the team’s trip can do so by following them on Instagram at @CedarFallsDance.