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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Taren Darr makes her mark with Trail Blazers 

Posted by Sasha at 3:35 PM ET

By Cecelia Haack
The South County Spotlight
Aug 5, 2008

Taren Darr’s feet hurt.

Her knees are bruised.

Yet she’s one happy dancer.

Darr won one of the 16 coveted spots on the Trail Blazers Dance Team July 27, which performs during halftime at games.

She bubbles with enthusiasm as she talks about the grueling two-week tryouts.

First, Darr presented her own dance with original chorography. She made the first cut. Then the hard work began. She had to learn two new routines in 100 degree heat during a hot July week in Portland.

”It was so hot,” she said. “We were all really on edge.”

Her hard work paid off and she made the second cut. There were more routines to learn.

“Our feet really hurt,” Darr said. She slipped off her high-heeled cork sandal to show off her blistered and swollen feet.

More hard work followed the second cut. She learned more routines. She danced, stretched and twirled across the stage. She made the third cut.

“It was intimidating,” Darr said.

The second weekend of the finals, returning Blazer dancers joined the tryouts.

“That was stressful,” she said. “They were so good.”

The Friday night before the finals the coach started teaching a new pom-pom routine.

“She said she knew it was hard,” Darr said. “But it wasn’t that bad.”

The new routines all had lots of floor work. Flashy splits, tumbling, rolls and other fantastic tricks that battered and bruised the dancers.

“All the new dancers in the finals had black and blue knees,” Darr said. “I put makeup on my knees to hide the bruises.” She laughs. “It didn’t work very well.”

Darr, 20, danced with the Scappoose Middle and High School dance teams. She started gymnastics at the age of 6.

She competed in floor exercises, uneven parallel bars, vault and balance beam.

“I love competing,” she said. “Competing was really cool because it feels like all the hard work has paid off -- if you do well.” She laughs again. “Sometimes you don’t do well and that’s a learning experience, too.”

After high school she attended Oregon State University for two years, majoring in business administration and dance.

“Dancing at OSU was a big-time commitment without any help from the college,” Darr said.

There are no scholarships, or financial help for dancers, they had to raise all the money for costumes, training and travel.

“We did it because we loved it,” she said.

This fall she’ll continue her education at Portland State University where she plans to study business administration and marketing.

“I like marketing. It’s creative and fun,” Darr said.

This year Darr won’t be paying for her dance costumes, the Trail Blazers pay for them. She will even be paid a small stipend for team practices and games.

“I always looked up to the Blazer dancers, but I didn’t think it would actually happen,” she said. “It hasn’t really hit me yet.”

By the middle of August the dance team will be getting together to bond. There will be a dance retreat for them. Then the practices will begin for the first home game.

Before she starts working with the Blazers, Darr will be at the summer dance camp at Scappoose High “Summer Beats Dance Camp.” She’ll be teaching fourth- and sixth-graders funk routines. Darr’s eyes shine when she talks about working with kids.

“It’ll be lots of fun,” she said and laughed.

By the time PSU starts, the Blazer dance team will be into a routine of practices preparing for the first home game.

The hardest part of dancing on a professional team is not practicing and performing. Darr says it’s time management. College classes, study time, dance practice, dance performance, studio dance classes and church are all very important to her and she doesn’t want to shortchange any of them.

Darr says she learned a lot about self-discipline from her first gymnastics coaches.

“I didn’t really have a regular childhood because I was at gymnastic classes four times a week,” she said. “I had competitions on weekends and that didn’t leave me much time to hang out.”

She will draw on her many years of studying and competing in gymnastics and dance to guide her through her time as a Blazer dancer.

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