Back in Lawrence, a Kansas University student who performed at the Olympic Games in Barcelona earlier this month struggled to find words to accurately describe the experience.
"Walking out to the stairs before we went on to the stage and to hear the roar of the crowd as we walked out on the stage, it was unlike anything I'd ever felt," said Debbie Adams, an Overland Park senior.
Adams, a co-captain on KU's pompon team, the Crimson Girls, was one of three women from KU chosen to dance in the closing ceremony. Sonya Snyder, a Topeka senior, is a member of the KU cheerleading squad, and Lovena Stamatiou, a former KU cheerleader, graduated in May with a degree in exercise science.
Adams, Snyder and Stamatiou were among 50 men and women selected from 1,500 people across the country to help wrap up the Olympic Games with a 7-minute dance and gymnastic routine. Adams and Snyder have returned to Lawrence, but Stamatiou stayed behind to visit relatives in Greece.
"ALL 50 members were wonderful," Adams said. "There were never any conflicts and everyone got along great. We made really great friends."
In addition to developing friendships, members also shared their skills with fellow dancers. Adams said the troupe included dancers from Broadway shows, and she said she picked up some new modern and lyrical dance steps.
Snyder said the professional dancers were a bit intimidating at first until the members got to know one another. "We were the only people there who were from the university cheerleading world," she said. "Their dancing was definitely better, but we could do some things they couldn't do. Everybody had their own talents and everyone was real nice."
THE HIGH-ENERGY routine included jazz, ballet, tap, hip-hop, tumbling and a touch of modern dance, said Adams. "It was a very fun routine," she said. "Every part symbolized a section of America."
The team first met in Atlanta for 2 weeks of intensive training, rehearsing five or six hours a day, Adams said. Before heading to Barcelona, they staged three shows one for friends and family members, one for the Atlanta Olympic Committee, and one for Dick Clark Productions. Dancers received invitations from the committee to perform in the opening ceremony of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and from Dick Clark Productions to participate in the season opening of the Georgia Dome.
In Spain, they stayed in the town of Sitges, "right on the Mediterranean," said Adams wistfully. They took time for some sightseeing and found a few opportunities to mingle with Olympic athletes.
SNYDER said she couldn't think of specific highlights of the trip. "The whole thing was incredible," she said. "I experienced more things in three weeks than I had in the last two years. It's a lot different than being in Lawrence, Kan. It was a very packed three weeks."
One of the most exciting aspects of the trip for Adams was the knowledge that the dance team represented the United States, said Adams.
"It was an amazing feeling," she said. "I'm so used to saying, `Hi, I'm from Kansas.' There, I said, `Hi, I'm from America.' That was really neat."