COLUMBIA — Danyale Taylor and Lee Williams were living in Houston when they met on the sidelines of a game at Prairie View A&M University, a sister school to Texas A&M. Danyale worked there as a dance coordinator and cheerleader chaperone while Lee worked with the athletic teams as a strength coach.
When Lee had the chance to move to Columbia to work as a strength training coach for Missouri's football and track teams, Danyale thought it would be fun to see if the popular HGTV show "House Hunters" was interested in their story. She went to the show's website and followed the "House Hunters is Casting" link.
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The show was interested. At 9 p.m. Friday, Danyale and Lee's house-buying adventure will be featured on a new episode of "House Hunters."
The "House Hunters" adventure has become part of the larger story of Danyale's move to Columbia and establishing herself as coach of the Sparklers, the dance team at Battle High School.
The couple filmed the episode in November 2012 when they closed on their Columbia-area house. Now married, the Williamses have been asked not to say where they live until after the show airs because episodes hinge the suspense of which house the family will choose. That deliberation scene, by the way, occurs in Quinton's Bar and Deli on South Ninth Street.
Before they got engaged, Danyale had no plans to leave her beloved hometown for Columbia. When a "House Hunters" producer asked her over the phone, "So you're going to stay in Texas?" she responded in what she described as an obvious tone: "Well, yeah, he's my boyfriend, you know, so it's his opportunity not mine ... and I wouldn't want him to miss out on it for me."
The producer responded by giving them an episode.
Reality meets acting
By the time the couple started really searching for a house, they were engaged and Danyale was planning to move to Columbia with Lee. The producer was excited to incorporate that into the storyline.
Danyale, 39, described the "House Hunters" experience as a mixture of reality and acting. They were told to be descriptive when walking through properties, and sometimes they had to rephrase sentences or do something over.
Lee, 39, didn't like that. "He wasn't really into it," Danyale said. "He would say, 'If I do it again, it won't be real. I gave you real already. If I do it again, it'll be acting. Do you want me to act?'"
But they persisted through re-shoots because it was a way for them to get acquainted with Columbia. Danyale said that with Lee's schedule, it was difficult for them to work out times to explore and get to know the town.
Danyale was eager to find work of her own. She found the job coaching the Sparklers as well as Stephens College's dance team. After the two got married in May, Danyale focused on preparing the Sparklers for their first year.
"I had a meeting with the girls and the parents, laid out my expectations and had a master class so I could see them move, and I saw what I needed to do," she said.
Before Danyale became their coach, the Sparklers had a training camp planned for Aug. 5-6. Danyale decided to do a two-week pre-camp because only three out of the 11 initial members of the team had any dance experience. The girls continued to practice every day after camp until the first day of school.
The girls practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday after school.
"I'm not always nice in practice, and I stress to them that I will never lie to them," Danyale said. "If something looks great, you will know it looks great. But if it doesn't, you will know as well. But once I tell you it doesn't look great, I'm going to tell you how to fix it."
To further shore up her relationship with the girls, Danyale said she became "an open book" for them.
"I allowed them to ask me anything they wanted to know about me. A couple were a little shy, but some were very bold. They wanted to know, 'What does your husband look like?' Y'all gonna have some kids?'" she said laughing and affecting a Southern drawl, which she doesn't have.
"They know when I say something to them it's coming from a good place, an honest place," she said.
Hopes reach beyond dance
Danyale's long-term goal is to create a dance curriculum in Columbia Public Schools "... so kids who aren't able to do it outside of school have an opportunity, because dance is expensive."
She was surprised there aren't dance classes in the schools or many dance teams. "When I talk to the girls here, there's so much interest in dance ... they either don't have resources or it's just not in the schools," she said.
Her hopes for the Sparklers extend beyond the realm of dance.
"I'm not just here to teach them how to dance, I'm here to groom them into young ladies that we can all be proud of to go out into society and be productive," she said. "It's not just about one, two, three, kick!"
The age is pivotal, she said. "I would really like to make sure my girls and any other girls I come into contact with stay focused ... and always carry themselves and have self respect and self esteem."
Columbia is home now
Even though Danyale misses Houston and plans to have a Texas-themed Christmas tree, complete with Texas flags and cowhides, she thinks she and Lee will plant their roots here.
"We both decided when we bought the house no matter what happens at the university, that this would be a place where we would want to settle and raise a family," she said.
The Williams have enjoyed Columbia so far. Danyale claims to have met only nice people, and she appreciates the enthusiasm the town has for MU.
"All of these wonderful things have happened to me all at the same time," Danyale said. "New town, new husband, new jobs, new dancers, new friends, new family. I can't even pinpoint one thing or another because life is just so good right now. We're Houstonians, and now we're Columbians."
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.