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Today I interviewed Taylor Neway (more affectionately known as ‘Tayway’) and I left in a better mood than when I first sat down. Taylor is my sorority sister in Chi Omega and a member of Florida State University’s (FSU) Golden Girls (GG). She has a contagious energy that puts a smile on your face, and after learning about her day-to-day life I’m not so sure where her liveliness comes from.

Taylor started dancing when she was only two years old. In high school, she danced at a studio but joining a college troupe was never in sight for her. Then, during her junior year, she joined her high school’s dance team and fell in love. She thought to herself, “I need to do this in college.”

When she began her college search, Taylor only looked at schools with top dance programs. Still, she had progress to make before trying out for a collegiate level squad. By the end of her junior year, she said, “I maxed out…so I had to go somewhere where I was going to grow again.” So, she transferred schools her senior year where she had to try out for and adjust to an entirely new team. She says that although the transition was a struggle, it brought her to FSU in the long run as she grew as both a person and a dancer.

Finally, when it was time to choose a school Taylor had one shot; she would go to the school and hope to make their dance team in the fall. Eventually, she chose FSU because of their dance program and the distance to home (Orlando, Florida). Although, at the time she had no idea if she was going to be able to dance. As a freshman, she tried out with 75 other girls and only 24 girls made it, including Taylor. Even on the team, not every girl dances at each game. They audition every Tuesday at practice and their coaches decide the roster for the weekend.

While this sounds cutthroat, Taylor told me with 100-percent confidence that “No one on the team is competitive with each other because we’re all friends in and out of practice and only wish the best for everyone.” She says that they’re fighting for the chance to dance—not against each other for a spot on the floor.

A supportive community is important this year—with 24 girls on the roster, only 16 are allowed to travel to Nationals in January. For those of you who don’t know, FSU’s Golden Girls are different than FSU’s cheer team—they’re a dance team. So, while they’re on the football field or the basketball court on the weekends, they’re also prepping for their national competition on the weekdays. In 2019, FSU came in 6th in the division 1A competition. Taylor says that all their competitors are extremely talented, so past rankings don’t matter; decisions are based on subjective judges and rankings are interchangeable. With this in mind, the team goes into each practice with a winning mindset. “Why train to get top five?” Taylor asks, “We’re training to win, and I think we’re fully capable of it.”

To prepare for the competition, the team trains three days a week. On a normal day, Taylor arrives at the gym at 6:30 a.m. for lift, goes home to shower and eat, goes for her weekly COVID test, goes to the physical therapist for knee treatment, eats lunch at the sorority house, goes to classes, practices from 5:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., finishes homework and starts all over again the next day.

On a game day, the GG’s schedules are even more intense. They have hair, makeup, media, warm-ups and appearances around campus to boost Seminole spirit and the game itself. She says these days typically last ten hours.

Despite the work, Taylor loves what she does. You can see it in her face and hear it in the way she talks about performing. When I asked her how she feels on the field she said, “I have so much adrenaline…not that people are there to watch us, but in my eyes, I’m doing it for them.”

Taylor attributes her success to her parents who put her in dance in the first place and have continued to support her as well as her “family” at Golden Girls, Nyah and Jenna. She says they helped her gain confidence last season and taught her to seize her opportunities. Finally, she thanks her team for being so amazing and supportive—“I couldn’t make it through every practice without them” she says.

After she graduates, Taylor wants to try out for the Miami Dolphins cheer team and eventually be a medical device sales representative, something she’s passionate about because of her own journey with diabetes.

I hope by now you can see why I left our interview in such a good mood; her energy and passion for dance and life itself are truly contagious. I love you, Tayway.

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Ally Kukanza is a freshman at Florida State University planning on majoring in Economics. She is also a part of the Presidential Scholars and Honors Programs at FSU, and a David Blaine fanatic!
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