Steve Hammer

Stacy Austin is the choreographer for the Indiana Pacemates, which held tryouts and announced its 2005-'06 squad this week. Before becoming choreographer for the Pacemates and the Fever Inferno dance teams, she spent nine seasons as a Pacemate herself.

Q: How many women tried out this year and what do you look for when you're choosing your team?

A: Around 170 women tried out. We picked our team last Wednesday. We have 10 returning veterans and five newcomers. We definitely look for girls that we think exude the look of a Pacemate: somebody that's in good physical condition, is attractive and has good dance abilities. Basically, people that we think that people would enjoy watching dance at a Pacers game.

Q: There was a male Pacemate several seasons ago, when you were dancing. Do you ever see another guy making the team?

A: I don't know. It's not something that's ever come up again. We don't have a lot of men who try out. Our WNBA dance team has both male and female dancers, so we already have a team in place that caters to males. The crowd at the WNBA games seems to embrace the concept of male and female dancers, as opposed to the NBA team.

Q: How do you select the routines for the dancers and how do you stay on top of current dance trends?

A: I do some of the choreography. We have a few guest choreographers who come in and some of the dancers will occasionally choreograph a dance. But I'm the coach, more or less. I usually take three or four girls a year to a camp for professional sports teams dancers, so we have the opportunity to learn different things from choreographers from around the country. So we get the latest moves there. The girls learn 30 to 32 routines a year. I couldn't physically choreograph all those routines myself.

Q: Are you as hard on your team as coach Carlisle is on his?

A: Well, I don't know how strict he is, but yes, there's things I have to keep on the girls about. Maybe some of the girls have had trouble picking up on a certain routine, or a certain move. Or it could be an appearance iss. It could be any number of things. I have to be the one who keeps them in line.

Q: Why do you think so many women want to be on the team, despite the fact they're not getting rich from it?

A: It's definitely something they're not doing for the money. They're paid $50 per game and they get a fee for practicing, and they do appearances in the community for which they're paid. But mainly it's more of a situation where the girls are involved because they want to have an opportunity to keep dancing beyond high school or college. Other than community theater, there's not anything that a dancer can do, except maybe ballet.

Q: How did you move from being a dancer to being the coach?

A: I did the Pacemates for nine seasons and after my ninth year, I was getting ready to get married and I thought it was a good time to step away from it. I was starting to feel the pressure, as well as the fact that a lot of the girls I'd danced with had moved on. So the choreographer in my last season recommended me for the job when she decided to take a new job. I was ready for a change in my career and it was a nice transition for me to step over into the coaching role.


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