As the Golden Girls rehearse for the first time in their newly finished studio, head coach Shannon Fry amplifies her voice over the recorded Mizzou fight song. “Hit! Hit! Hit!” She doesn’t miss a count.
Minor details such as the availability of a microphone and an acoustic system to critique over booming music are major privileges of a personal studio — ones that Fry says are like opening up a whole new world.
The sparkle of the Golden Girls has become what fans expect every game day. For the dance team that holds such a presence on the MU sidelines with their legendary gold uniforms, white boots and perfected dances, the facility just south of the stadium is the first place they can call home.
Equipped with a 3,000-square-foot studio, workout space, a 1,500-square-foot dressing room and a lounge area, a place of their own means freedom. The team, which previously practiced in local studios, enjoys even the smallest perks including not having to wait on someone to lock up. The dancers’ practice schedule is no longer dictated by others.
“I felt like I was getting the key to my own house,” Fry says with a smile.
A facility of their own has provoked modesty and appreciation from the dancers.
“This is beyond real to me,” says senior Golden Girl Karielle Chambers. Her contagious smile continues as she looks around. “We’ve just been anticipating it for so long."
The team, whose performances are classically rooted in Mizzou traditions — from performing alongside Marching Mizzou to their Fight Song routine — have opened their studio just in time for the centennial Homecoming and a center stage pregame performance by the alumni Golden Girls. The performance will consist of what they call “traditionals,” such as the waltz, as well as a brand new feature.
Because weeks of practice cannot go into the alumni routines, the former Golden Girls will practice together for the first time just four hours prior to kick-off. A YouTube video of all the dances has been posted for the returning women who might need a little extra tune-up.
“We have alumni dancers spanning from the 1970s to this past year,” says Fry with a laugh. With her attention to detail and perfectionist approach, her love for her job is still apparent after 14 years of coaching the team. “It has taken a lot of coordination on my part, but it’s going to be a blast.”
Accepting a lighter schedule for this year’s Homecoming festivities, the current team members will perform just on the sidelines rather than full halftime and pregame routines. “I think the biggest focus is really for the alumni,” says junior Golden Girl Amy Trader. “They have a lot to celebrate with the hundredth, so we give them the spotlight.”
With roughly 75 alumni Golden Girls expected, the performance will be divided into a classic and a modern era of dance, each with a different feature performance. And keeping with Tiger tradition, the alumni band will march right alongside them.
“I love that we still dance with the band and drill with them,” says Fry. “It’s those traditions that set us apart from some of the teams that have gone more modern.”
The opening of a new studio after years of routines on Faurot Field brings the team full circle, an appreciation that is transparent in the girls.
“I feel so lucky,” says Chambers. “We’re the squad that they get to see. How often are this many alumni Golden Girls watching us from the sidelines?"
For many alumni though, the performance is just a small element in their weekend at MU. “You know, we have this saying ‘GG’s For Life,’” smiles Fry, a former Golden Girl herself in the early ’90s. “When you experience things with a certain group, it’s those memories that are unique.”