This is the Bethlehem native’s second year with the team, but she has been dancing her whole life. “My mom got me involved in dance when I was 4,” she said, “and I ended up falling in love with it when I was little. It was something I was good at, and it’s a form of stress relief for me.” Though McDonald noted that auditioning for the Sixers was anything but stress-free. “The anxiety from auditions is unbelievable!” she said.
McDonald went through an open call process when trying out for the 2009 season. From a host of hopefuls, the field is narrowed to 30 finalists, who again perform for a panel of judges and go through an interview process before the final selections are made. When the coach called her with the good news the morning after those auditions, McDonald said, “My first reaction? I cried.” This year, she said, “It was more like a sigh of relief, they want me back.”
The dance team practices twice a week and during the season there are one or two games to attend each week. “We start practicing in mid-July,” said McDonald, “and we go until April, and we stop if they don’t make the playoffs.” That gives the dancers some time off before the routine begins again.
“Our coach is pretty much about perfection,” said McDonald, who admits she used to get a little jittery before going on the court, especially during the first year when she was a rookie. But McDonald is used to performing and approaches it as any professional would, by making sure she eats healthfully and works out in addition to nailing those dance moves.
Balancing the demands of graduate school and dancing for the Sixers can be challenging at times, but McDonald said her professors at IU are very understanding and helpful, and the dance team coach works with her to accommodate her academic schedule.
“It definitely can be a little draining at times,” said McDonald, “but none of us would trade it for anything else.” McDonald has bonded with many of the girls on the team and said that everyone gets along. “We all share the same love of dance, and it’s fun to go out there each week and dance with them. The girls come from so many different backgrounds, it really keeps things interesting.” McDonald admits she is not looking forward to the time when “I have to move on.”
McDonald has at least another year before finishing her master’s degree, and eventually would like to work in a college counseling center, but for now she hopes to try out again for the Sixers’ 2011 season. “I would love to be a part of the team next year, as well” she said.
In the meantime, McDonald is enjoying every moment of her time in the limelight, acknowledging that the experience has given her opportunities she would never have had otherwise, from participating in a professional photo shoot for the dance team calendar last year, to handling local media coverage, to making public appearances at various community and charitable events. And according to McDonald, “It really is as fun as it looks.”