Hoping her number was up (in a good way)

Here's the story of Sophia Salo's seven-hour tryout at Texas State where she hoped to achieve something no Blue Brigader has achieved since 2011

Sophia+Salo+performs+her+farewell+solo+at+the+Blue+Brigade+spring+show+%2C+%22At+the+Movies%2C%22+on+Saturday+April+13.
Back to Article
Back to Article

Hoping her number was up (in a good way)

Sophia Salo performs her farewell solo at the Blue Brigade spring show ,

Sophia Salo performs her farewell solo at the Blue Brigade spring show , "At the Movies," on Saturday April 13.

Dave Winter

Sophia Salo performs her farewell solo at the Blue Brigade spring show , "At the Movies," on Saturday April 13.

Dave Winter

Dave Winter

Sophia Salo performs her farewell solo at the Blue Brigade spring show , "At the Movies," on Saturday April 13.

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






image_pdfimage_print

It was 4:30 p.m. on April 7, and Blue Brigade senior lieutenant Sophia Salo had spent the entire day inside the Jower Gym on the Texas State University campus in San Marcos. She had begun her tryout for the dance team at Texas State at 9:30 a.m. that morning.  Seven hours later Salo still didn’t know whether or not she had made the squad.

I saw girls turning around and crying, and so I had prepared myself by the time I could actually get up to see the list.”

— Sophia Salo

The other aspiring dancers who were her competition crowded around the list of numbers assigned to the dancers who had become Texas State Strutters. Some saw their number on the list; others didn’t. 

“I saw girls turning around and crying, and so I had prepared myself by the time I could actually get up to see the list.”

No Blue Brigade graduate had made a college drill team since 2011, and the Strutters aren’t just any dance team. They are the first four-year university American Precision Dance Team ever formed, and they will celebrate their 60th year starting in September.

“Strutters is a world-renowned dance team that has performed for the queen of England [1997], [three] presidential inaugurations [1961, 1965 and 2017] and has also been asked to open the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade this upcoming year,” Salo said.  

Along with fellow Blue Brigade seniors Jane Addison lle and Chanyn James, Sophia Salo proudly displayed her college intentions during a special seniors performance at the spring dance show on Aug. 13.

The Strutters performed at the famed November spectacle in Manhattan twice before in 2000 and in 2012. In 2008, the Strutters were a semifinalist on the NBC television show, America’s Got Talent, Season 3.

Sophia was a senior lieutenant this past year and brought her enthusiasm, love of dance and hard work ethic to the team.”

— Blue Brigade director Nancy Honeycutt-Searle

So the stakes were high, but Salo believed she had what it took to make the squad. But despite her confidence, the sheer math of the situation had to be intimidating for her and for all of the women who were trying out. 

There were 103 women in the gym trying out for 31 spots. For every dancer who made it, there would be two who didn’t. Salo wore No. 28.  When she got to the list, that was the number she hoped to see staring back at her.

Salo’s desire to be on a competitive college dance team had been a dream throughout her childhood.

“I grew up hearing about my mom’s high school drill team and how they had an entire competition season, went on trips, and were all serious, dedicated dancers, and I have always wanted that experience,” Salo said.

Dave Winter
Senior Sophia Salo sings “One day my prince will come” from “Snow White”. She was one of the several seniors who got a solo in the choir cabaret performance, which is the showcase for the program’s seniors.

As a Strutter, Salo would be able to compete more and travel more than she was able to do in high school, and it was an opportunity she coveted.

To earn it, however, she would have to make the cut.

On the day of the tryout, the dancers were separated into groups of three or four. The girls in each group went before the judges, introduced themselves and then they performed a jazz dance, a kick combination and a split.

“During the kick combination, I had to keep telling myself that I was almost done,” said Salo, who admitted the tryout tired her out.

She may have been done with her audition, but the tryout was nowhere near over. 

Several of the girls received callbacks and had to face the judges for another round of auditions. Salo did not receive a callback, which meant for better or for worse, the judges had already made a determination about her, so while the dancers who were called back fought for their spot the squad, Salo had to wait to find out her fate.

After all of the dancing for the day was over, the judges deliberated for 15 more minutes and posted the list around the corner from where the anxious dancers waited. They all approached the list together, but when the group got close to it, Salo hesitated and let her fellow dancers approach the list ahead of her. 

Dave Winter
Fine Arts Academy ambassadors Jon Forbes and Sophia Salo conduct a tour of the school for the Austin Board of Realtors visit to McCallum on Nov. 28.

While girls streamed around her crying, happy or sad tears, Salo mentally steeled herself for whatever the outcome would be. She approached the list, scanning it to find her number. 

And then there it was … No. 28. She had made the team.

“As soon as I saw my number, I turned around and found my dad who had come with me to the tryout and nodded my head and then starting crying with happiness,” Salo said.

As soon as I saw my number, I turned around and found my dad who had come with me to the tryout and nodded my head and then starting crying with happiness.”

— Sophia Salo

She wasn’t the only source of tears in the moment.

“I went over and hugged my dad who was also crying.”

The moment was one she will remember the rest of her life, but she couldn’t linger in it because immediately, she had to go back inside the gym for her first meeting as a Strutter.

The doors to the gym opened, and all of the current Strutters were lined up in formation for the newly chosen Strutters to walk through. As they walked this literal and figurative rite of passage, the veteran Strutters serenaded the rookies with the Strutter song and started jumping up and down in celebration. 

“There was a lot of hugging amongst the new members and the vets, and you could feel the excitement and happiness in the room,” Salo said. “None of us [new members] had a clue what was going on. We were too happy.”

Paul Salo
Salo poses outside the gym at Texas State next to the posted list of dancers’ numbers who had made the Strutters. Her number 28 was among the numbers on the list.

Salo had accomplished something that no Blue Brigade member had achieved in eight years.

In 2011, Blue Brigade captain Kristin Page attended Kilgore and danced as a Kilgore Rangerette; the year before, Camille Howells went to Tyler and danced as an Apache Belle. 

It is an honor to be selected as a part of this team. To be a member of such a supportive and talented sisterhood is an amazing way to begin my college experience.”

— Sophia Salo

Blue Brigade director Nancy Honeycutt Searle said that those are the only Blue Brigade dancers that she could remember trying out for and making a college dance team.

Searle also said Salo had shown that she had what it takes to be a Strutter throughout her senior year.

“Sophia was a senior lieutenant this past year and brought her enthusiasm, love of dance and hard work ethic to the team,” Searle said. “We are excited to see her as a Texas State Stutter next year.”

That goes double for Salo.

“It is an honor to be selected as a part of this team,” she said. “To be a member of such a supportive and talented sisterhood is an amazing way to begin my college experience.”

Salo starts that experience in about a month when she heads to San Marcos well before most Bobcats will arrive on campus.

“We move into our dorms two weeks before everyone else when we start our training camp,” Salo said. “While at training camp, we will learn some of our dances for football season along with the fight song and other stand routines.”

Even for someone as accomplished in high school as Salo, who excelled as a Fine Arts Academy choir major and ambassador, as a Blue Brigade dancer and senior officers and even (little known fact) as a black-belt karate student, making the Texas Strutters was a big deal and the start of a grand college adventure.

Ravyn Nakia, Texas State Strutters head captain
The 31 new members of the 2019-2020 Texas State Strutters, including Mac’s Sophia Salo, pose for a picture moments after they found out they had made the squad.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email