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State College Native Makes Professional NBA Dance Team

by on August 13, 2013 10:05 AM

It was around 10 o’clock on a Friday night when Meghan Richards decided she was going to try out for the official dance team of the Washington Wizards the following morning.

Three weeks and multiple auditions later, Richards is now one of the Wizard Girls.

“I moved down here for a job and was going to audition, but after a couple of weeks [in Washington D.C.] my job got kind of crazy,” the State College native says. “So I thought maybe I might just sit back and wait until next year.”

Instead, Richards made a snap decision the night before the try out, which was held on July 13.

“I think I went into it a little more relaxed in making that last-minute decision,” she says. “I was a little more calm going into it.”

Richards originally began dancing at the age of 12 because her older sister was doing it.

“I didn’t really take it too seriously at first, but I was an artistic kind of kid so it was a good outlet for me,” she says.

She trained at Centre Dance, located at 2121 Sandy Drive in State College, for seven years under the guidance of her teacher and owner of the studio, Nicole Swope.

“She’s a powerful dancer,” Swope says about her former student. “She’s technical and a great performer. The stage really is where she comes alive.”

While in high school, Richards participated in dance competitions in different cities “pretty much every weekend.” After graduation, she moved to Los Angeles, where she danced in music videos (she’s in the video for “Hush Hush” by the Pussycat Dolls) and commercials. In 2010, Richards received a scholarship to dance at the World Dance Movement in Italy.

And when Richards lived back home in State College for a year, she taught at the same studio where she learned most of her dancing chops.

“I knew she would be assertive in the classroom and she would be on task with her choreography,” Swope says. “And the kids really love her.”

More than 200 dancers tried out for the Wizard Girls. It was a long, stressful process, Richards says, but she continued to make it past the cuts until there were only 30 dancers left.

“You’re being constantly looked at,” she says. “It’s a continuous audition, so you feel like you’re on the squad because you’re training with the squad … so you don’t want to make a wrong move.”

During the final showcase, students, teachers and parents who know Richards through Centre Dance were texting and tweeting their votes for the dancer. Richards ended up winning the popular vote at the showcase.

“That’s not why she made it, you can’t just get the popular vote without having the right skills,” Swope, who was in constant contact with Richards’ parents during the showcase, explains. “But they did announce the popular vote, and the kids went crazy because they have been cheering her on through the whole thing.”

Rehearsals with the Wizard Girls begin this month, and Richards is extremely excited about performing again.

“Just to be a part of the organization and a group of girls who all share the same passion is a really exciting thing,” she says.

“Be confident and know you can do it,” Richards advises younger dancers. “You have to work hard at your craft, so just work hard.”

Shawn Christ is a recent Penn State graduate who is working as an intern for
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