Charlie's Angels

Ball State's Code Red Dancers know one thing: it's all about entertainment.

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The misconception is that it's all about sex and looks. The truth is that through it all -- the outfits, the dances, and music -- there is one aspect each woman on the Code Red dance squad strives to achieve: entertainment.

"We are out there for entertainment," team captain Amy Cook said. "We want the crowd to look at us and say 'ooh.'"

"We are out there for a job. We are out there to cheer on the team but we're not," Cook said. "We are out there to dance and to let the fans have a good time during timeouts and halftime."

CAPTAIN COOK

At age 3, Cook started attending classes in Anderson, her hometown. These classes began her dancing career, but it was nearly short-lived. After three-straight days of crying, her mother told her that if she cried again, she would never dance again.

Cook dried the tears, and carried that dancing career through high school as a competitive cheerleader and to Ball State as a member of the then-called Pom Squad. Cook is now the captain of what was renamed this year to the Code Red Dancers.

For the coach of Code Red, Michelle Bowyer, also 2001 Miss Ball State and former Pom Squad co-captain, Cook is doing a near perfect job leading the squad.

"We are one person in two bodies," Bowyer said. "We think alike and have the same ideas. I am never worried when I'm not there."

Bowyer misses nearly 50 percent of the Code Red events including practices because the coach is currently a Pacemate for the Indiana Pacers.

But, while Bowyer is away, Cook holds down the fort, conducting practices and leading the group. One area Cook leads more often than not is practice.

For Cook, everything has gone pretty smoothly as the ringmaster for the team.

"I'm friends with everybody and I don't have a big power trip or anything," she said. "At first it was all friendly and then it got down to business. We have never gotten into it or anything at practice."

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

For the 14-member squad, practice is mandatory, second only to class, and takes place sometimes three times a week. The routines they practice during those times are dances that have been in the works for quite some time.

Toward the end of the summer, eight members of the squad traveled to the University of California, Santa Barbara, where they picked up the majority of the dances the squad uses today. There, they took part in a weeklong dance camp. The camp consisted of several choreographers, some of which had quite a resume. A few members of the team said there were choreographers in attendance who were back-up dancers for Jennifer Lopez and who had appeared in Usher videos.

Junior Code Red dancer Danielle Irons was one of the eight dancers to travel to California during the summer.

"It was awesome, because we got to learn from people who were famous," Irons said. "They were people who had choreographed for certain artists. We just learned a lot of different styles and dances, all out on the parking lots and tennis courts. On one side was an ocean and on the other side a mountain."

Cook, however, explained that several dances taught at camp are unusable.

"Lots of them aren't appropriate for the games," Cook said. "You would be surprised. We did a pole-dance in California. It wasn't like a stripper dance, but that's what people think.

"There is the other extreme too, like ballet, where people would be like, 'Whoa, get off the court."

TOUGH COMPETITION

Code Red holds two tryouts throughout the season, one in the fall and one in the spring. The spring tryout tends to be the more popular session, with more than 60 women trying out for one of the 14 spots. And that's how many spots are open. Each season, current members of the squad must try out again in order to remain a dancer for the team.

Once the team is set, the competition remains. There are strict guidelines the dancers must follow and meet in order to actually perform at the games. The biggest requirement is that each dancer know each move, almost perfectly.

"In the beginning you work for your spot. Period," Cook said. "If we are at practice and we are doing a dance and someone isn't getting the move, then they just don't get to perform."

A LITTLE BIT OF ATTITUDE

When performing, for many of the women, attitude plays a fairly big role.

"It's one of the main things," Cook said. "You can tell if there is a girl out there who has no attitude. I love it. I live to perform.

"You are out there to perform. If I don't see people in front of me smiling, then I'm not doing my job. But I don't ever see that. If I do, then I just change my eyesight to someone who is smiling."

Along with attitude comes a little bit of sex appeal, another aspect Cook explained is important. It's one that isn't emphasized, but rather comes naturally in dancing.

"There is sex appeal in everything, and dancing happens to be the No. 1 thing that has sex appeal," she said. "It is normal to us. It's not like we do a dance based on it. We don't choose a dance because it's more sexual. Choreographers choreograph that stuff. It's entertaining."

THE SHOULDER PADS (UNIFORMS)

Football players put on shoulder pads, dancers put on uniforms. And, according to Cook, the uniforms Code Red wears are nothing unusual when compared to other dance squads, whether they be professional teams or other college groups.

"The outfits are great; we just got new (ones)," Cook said. "Everybody loves them, but they show everything.

"Basically, we just have prove to everybody that we can dance. So don't look at my body, watch me dance."

Cook went on to further explain that the type of uniforms the team wears are chosen for certain reasons, one of which is to make dancing a bit more comfortable.

"It's expected; we need tight pants -- tight as in Spandex, stretchy," she said. "We have to because of the dance moves we do. We can't go out there in cotton pants that will rip in the crotch.

"You put on the outfit and immediately you have the attitude."

Irons spoke along the same lines as Cook, saying, "Some of (the uniforms) are more interesting than others; it's just like putting on a uniform. It's not a big deal, just part of a concept."

The team cannot, however, just choose any outfit it wants. There is a process the squad must go through to get an outfit approved. Usually, once dancer is measured and one prototype of a uniform is created.

That dancer then tries on the outfit, displaying it for various people in the athletic department, including Athletics Director Andrea Seger. Once Seger and other administrators in the athletic office approve an outfit, the mass production takes place.

Funding for the uniforms comes in part from various appearances the squad makes. The team has already appeared at four high school varsity basketball games, one of which was Cook's high school. The team asks each school for at least $50. The team received $75 twice and $100 dollars twice.

MAKING PEOPLE SMILE

Through it all, Cook realizes that even though the women on the team are out there to entertain, there will always be the critics.

"Not everybody is going to like us; there are some people who even call in and complain," she said. "There is always going to be someone complaining. You see people shaking their heads and you can just tell they get so disgusted."

Despite those critics, Cook and the majority of the dancers share the same simple line of thinking when it comes to performing.

"It's fun to entertain for a crowd," freshman Code Red dancer Ashley Heinzelman said. "We are an entertaining crowd that is here to please the crowd. It's cool when people come up and tell us we have done a good job. "

"I'm out there to dance, entertain and make people smile," Cook said with a smile of her own.

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