Johnson hits dance moves at halftime show

Hamline dancer Tayler Johnson returns to Klas and shares her experience dancing with HU.


Cole Mayer

HU Dancer Tayler Johnson performing her dance routine at the night football game last Saturday, Sept. 13, at Klas Field.

Gino Terrell, Sports Editor

Junior Tayler Johnson was able to relive one of her favorite moments as a member of Hamline University’s dance team, last Saturday, Sept. 13, at Klas Field.

“The first time going out on Klas and performing my freshmen year – that is a huge memory for me,” Johnson said. “I had already danced on football fields in high school but it was so much different because this is collegiate…I was nervous as heck, but I was so excited. After I got off the field, it was adrenaline running like no other. … Every year it’s the same way. It’s like I’m reliving my freshmen year emotions and yet I’m a junior now.”

Johnson said her earliest memory of dancing was when she was five years old, dancing in studio. She said she can’t quite remember when she started dancing but she remembers what inspired her.

“I always wanted to be a ballerina…like in The Nutcracker. They were so beautiful, so majestic,” Johnson said.

Johnson explained while she was in dance studio she also performed other genres of dancing, not just ballet. She learned jazz and tap dancing and experienced being on a cheer team for two years in middle school. Afterwards, she made the transition to become a member of the dance team, performing to hip-hop and contemporary music, which she started in high school and continued at Hamline.

During Johnson’s first two years at Hamline, she was pushed to be extremely competitive right out the gate. She landed on a team whom was facing other competitive colleges and the Pipers were stacked with upperclassmen ready to compete at that level.

Current first-year dance coach Danielle Nelson, who was a senior team captain of the dance team when Johnson was a first-year, said she was impressed to see the growth in Johnson.

“She’s come a very long way and I’m proud of her,” Nelson said. “She’s always been a dedicated dancer, making sure she goes that extra mile to not only help herself but to help the team.”

Johnson’s classmate and friend, junior Rebecca Younk, described her as “trustworthy, caring and hardworking,” which are three important traits she took with her to the dance floor and it paid off for her.

As a first year, Johnson was a part of the group that made history when the team’s appearance at nationals marked their first in school history. The next year, the Pipers went on to make a second trip to nationals.

“It’s just breathtaking to be on that stage and say we made it here…it streamed all over the world,” Johnson said. “You’re competing against all these amazing schools and you get to see all these different styles. …. Every time I’m at a competition and I get to watch, it’s breathtaking to see everything and to know that someone maybe [viewing] me the same way, it’s just awesome.”

However, this season the dance team has opted out of making the trip to nationals. They’re adjusting to last year’s change when they went from being an athletic team to a sport club. In the process, the team has acquired members with little to no prior experience in dance. The plan is to build within the team this year and have them ready to compete at nationals next year.

All in all, Johnson said they’re growing.

“We’re building again; we’re growing,” Johnson said. “We’re pretty close knit [and] we’ve always have been since I was on the team.”

Over the years as a member of the Hamline dance team, Johnson said she’s built lasting relationships that go beyond the dance floor.

“I still talk to the girls who were on the team when I was a freshmen, who were seniors and juniors. They’ve mentored me in a lot of ways, not just as a dancer but as a student and as a friend. I can go to any of them and say ‘hey I need some advice,’” Johnson said.

She said they are also supportive of her with her battle against epilepsy, a condition that makes her susceptible to seizures. Johnson has to take medication to prevent seizures from occurring and she said her team supports her by checking up and confirming whether she’s taken her meds.

“It’s not easy, but on October 14, I’ll be five years free of the grand mals [seizures]. I’m lucky that I have a lot of people here who are supportive. My family and friends back at home are really supportive,” Johnson said.

The team knows the protocol if Johnson were to have a seizure. Johnson said there’s comfort in knowing that.

However, there are still a few obstacles. At times she suffers from “the day dream seizures,” which cause her to zone out long enough where she’ll notice she had at time relapse. She also has to deal with side effects from her medication, such as drowsiness.

“It does make it hard with dance sometimes,” she said. “Being tired from my meds, I’m like ‘I don’t know if I want to dance today,’ but then I go out and do it because I know it’s just the meds. I really do want to go out and dance.”

Johnson said her “freedom” of expression is one of the things she likes about dancing and why she enjoys watching others perform – to see how people interpret or perform a song or expression differently.

Johnson said every time she suits up in the Pipers dance team uniform, she carries “a sense of pride” with her.

“A sense of pride…knowing I made this team, I’m doing something I love and I get to show it off to everyone who comes here. It’s just awesome. I can say ‘yes I’m a dancer and I’m a dancer at Hamline University,’ it’s a good feeling,” Johnson said. “I think of how I’m representing Hamline and how I love being at this school. I enjoy every aspect of this school: academia, the social life, being a college student and my athletics through dance. I’m representing this school, I’m representing myself and I’m representing a team that’s like my family.”