Dancing Without D

Celebs Move Forward After Losing Director of 17 Years

Music fades and applause fills the PAC at another performance from the Celebrities dance team. As the girls wait for the curtain to close, they hold their poses and look off to the side to see their director, Coach Stacy Danielson- one of the a pairs of clapping hands that matters most.

Danielson had been with the team for 17 years, and was referred to by the dancers as ‘the heart and soul of Celebrities.’ In June of 2016, Danielson was diagnosed with colon cancer. Throughout her chemotherapy, Danielson continued to attend every morning practice, show and football game. She battled her cancer for two years, but in late July, Danielson passed away in hospice care.

“It’s like those stereotypical heartbreak stories where once you lose somebody, your heart is missing a piece,” senior Celebrity Kate Klement said. “I never really believed in that until she died, and now I completely understand.”

There may be no moving on from the loss of their beloved coach, however the Celebs have been trying their best to move forward since July.

“We all know when it’s a hard day, and nobody hesitates to try to lift each others’ spirits up,” Klement said. “That’s what D loved the most about us.”

Photo by Katelyn Tschoerner
Poms up high, Celebrities officer Jenna McQueen lines of her dancers at the Vandy game on Aug. 31. This was the first time on the field since the passing of their dance director, Stacy Danielson. “It was definitely a very emotional time, when we circled up right before to do our team prayer,” McQueen said. “We all just had the same idea in mind, to make her proud.”

Apart from missing their coach during morning practices, football games and pep rallies, part of what makes this all so difficult is when little things remind the dancers of Danielson. Klement said it could be seeing the color blue, the color for colon cancer, or coming across deer, which Danielson notoriously loved to feed in her yard.

“The other night I was driving home and saw a deer,” Klement said. “I slammed on my breaks just completely in awe. It was like she was watching me to make sure I got home safe.”

The current line officers are the last who were chosen by Danielson. Celebs captain, senior Caiti Dodge, said that this pushes the officers to do everything in their power to keep their team strong.

“While our team will be struggling a lot emotionally, we just want to be the best cheerleaders for our girls and be the closest family we can be,” Dodge said.

Nikki Evans, the new the new Celebs director, said that over everything, she wants the girls to leave this year thankful for their experience on the team.

“[I am] just keeping in mind that these girls need love, they need support,” Evans said. “At the end of the day, the most important thing is that they are enjoying this experience- the friendships they are carrying on, the memories they are making, [and for the] seniors, the legacy they are leaving.”

Her shoes are completely impossible to fill, there is absolutely no way I can touch these girls in the same way that she did,

— Nikki Evans, Celebs Director

Last year when Evans started on the team as the assistant director, she shared an office, and sometimes even a desk with Danielson. In just one year, Evans said that they became close friends who went out to dinner, walked their dogs and fed the deer in Danielson’s yard during their spare time. While Evans said that it is unlikely she will live up to the impact that Danielson made, she will definitely try.  

“Her shoes are completely impossible to fill, there is absolutely no way I can touch these girls in the same way that she did,” Evans said. “She is such a special person to them, but as I move forward leading the team, I am trying really hard to just keep that standard that she would expect and would make her proud.”  

Among the many reasons that people are missing Danielson, former Celebs manager senior Calissa Garbaccio said that what many remember her for was how important she made others feel. The last time Garbaccio talked to Danielson was before curtain call at Spring Show when she was debating on whether to bow with the other managers.

“Being the shy person I am, I didn’t want to go out on stage to bow because everyone would look at me and that’s too much attention,” Garbaccio said. “D came up next to me and grabbed my hand and pulled me on stage. I pulled back, not wanting to go, but she looked at me and told me in her hilarious, sassy voice, ‘I’m not going up there without you’ and I smiled and just walked on holding her hand.”

Looking back on her time on the team with Danielson, Klement said that she thanks her former coach for always being her biggest cheerleader.

“She was there for me when it felt like time couldn’t go by any slower, when I felt that I wasn’t good enough for people or for being on the team,” Klement said. “Every single time I needed guidance, knowledge or motivation, she did not hesitate.”

Throughout this year of Celebrities, there will be tears, there will be hugs and there will be plenty of high kicks. Evans said that no matter what it will take, they plan to become the best versions of themselves.

“I see a bright future for the team and I’m really excited,” Evans said. “I’m prepared and ready to make Stacy proud.”