B.C. Lions dance team to return this season, making space for women and men

Only 40 dancers will be chosen for the B.C. Lions dance team this season. (Janella Jamilton/CBC - image credit)
Only 40 dancers will be chosen for the B.C. Lions dance team this season. (Janella Jamilton/CBC - image credit)

The B.C. Lions dance team is returning this season after a two-year hiatus, and they're coming back with a more inclusive attitude toward its dancers as the team opened auditions to men and women for the first time this year.

Dance team manager Alexandra Severyn said it all started with audition registrations, and the 10th person to sign up identified as male. Surprised, but interested in the idea of having more than just women on the team, she pitched the idea of including men and other genders on the team to the club. She said they loved the idea.

After two days of auditions, during what was one of the biggest try-outs Severyn says she's ever seen, team leaders will narrow it down to 40 people who will begin rehearsals in one week.

"People want to be a part of this team and it's trending in the right direction," Severyn said.

She said the team is strictly a dance team, and does not do stunts, so the 40 spots will be given to the best dancers who can smile throughout a performance and commit to the team for the next nine months.

Janella Hamilton/CBC
Janella Hamilton/CBC

One of the hopefuls for a spot is 25-year-old Francis Aranton, who has been dancing since he was just eight-years-old.

"Opening it up to more genders makes it more inclusive," he said. "I just want to be part of that inclusivity."

"There's lots of boy teams and girl teams, there's not much mixing of the two so I just think this is a super cool opportunity."

Oriana Rodriguez, 39, said she hasn't had the chance to dance with many men.

"They're super skilled, they bring very different varieties of style, of movement," she said.

Janella Hamilton/CBC
Janella Hamilton/CBC

Several female friends of Vince Karasoot, also vying for a spot on the Lions team, joined the Calgary Stampeders' dance team after high school, but as a man that opportunity wasn't available to him.

"I always thought it would be really cool to participate in that," he said.

Karasoot, 41, used to dance on cruise ships, and Aranton travelled the world with a dance crew, but Severyn said there aren't many jobs for professional dancers, or even spaces for them to perform.

Several years later he's still taking dance classes, and said this audition gives him a chance to put those skills to use.

Severyn hopes the B.C. Lions move to include all genders shows other dance teams that dance is for everyone — not just women.

"There's talent here," she said. "They deserve to be here."