As the fall semester comes to an end, the reality of graduation for many college seniors looms large, as does the end of a career for many college senior athletes, cheerleaders and dancers.
For NMSU senior and fifth-year Sundancer Sha’uri Brewster, the end of her college career might mean giving up her bedazzled Aggie uniforms and halftime performances at Aggie Memorial Stadium, but definitely not her pompoms, nor her career in dancing on the sidelines of a football field.
Sha’uri Brewster plans on graduating from NMSU next spring with not only a bachelor’s degree in dance, but also five years of dance team experience as a member of the New Mexico State Sundancers, as well as previous training in gymnastics.
With the skill set and knowledge she has acquired by dancing throughout her college career, Sha’uri plans on trying out to be an NFL cheerleader for the Denver Broncos in the spring.
“I’ve been dancing essentially since I was six years old,” she explained. “[I had] ten years of gymnastics, though, so different form of dance. I didn’t start actually considering myself a dancer until I got into college in 2013.”
Although her tumbling and gymnastic skills have given her a head start in learning how to adjust her body to various styles of dance, Sha’uri gives credit to the NMSU dance program as well as the Sundancers organization for teaching her the necessary skills to become an advanced dancer. Aside from pom, Sha’uri has been trained in ballet, jazz and contemporary styles of dance, just in her time as a student at NMSU alone.
“I have danced with Sha’uri since she came to NMSU from the beginning,” Sha’uri’s former teammate and current technique coach for the NMSU Sundancers, Alyssa Robinson explained. “That was when she first was kind of transferring over from being a gymnast into a dance team dancer and she didn’t really know any pom technique, turn technique, or any jump technique. But that was one thing about Sha’uri straight from the beginning is she just wanted to learn. She was always striving to learn. No matter what information was being thrown at her, she was constantly taking it in and that’s, I think, what made her excel so quickly throughout these past few years.”
The idea of auditioning for an NFL cheerleading team came to Brewster during her freshman year at NMSU after she traveled with the Sundancers to Colorado and performed with the NMSU Pride Band for the halftime show at a Denver Broncos game. The former band director set up a meet-and-greet after the game so the Sundancers could meet the Broncos cheerleaders.
“We got to watch them perform their routine on the field and talk to them,” Sha’uri explained. “I was mesmerized and coming back here I was like, alright now I need to get better at my pom and I really want to kill my technique and build myself up to be able to go and do that.”
The memory of this experience stuck with Brewster, and during the spring semester of her junior year at NMSU she decided to attend her first NFL cheerleading tryouts in Denver, Colorado, where she had originally been inspired by the Denver Broncos cheerleaders.
“I went [to try out] last year with the goal of kind of seeing where I was,” she explained. “I kind of wanted to go through the process so that I’d be a little less nervous and meet a couple people so that I’d have some friends that I could kind of talk to while I was there. I didn’t expect to do any good because I didn’t really prep myself well.”
Sha’uri recalled that the week-long tryout process for the NFL cheerleading team required every dancer to perform at their best and prove that they were both physically and mentally capable of learning and performing multiple routines in front of a panel of judges. The girls were expected to pick up choreography quickly as well as show off any other skill sets they may have had outside of dance. For Sha’uri, this was no contest. Her gymnastics skills and sassy personality were by far enough to set her apart from the other candidates.
“One of Sha’uri’s greatest strengths as a dancer is her versatility,” current head coach of the NMSU Sundancers Brittany Peralta boasted. “Her background in gymnastics allows her to execute certain skills and tricks that are typically difficult for dancers to learn.”
Although she went into the process expecting nothing more than to gain insight and experience, to her surprise, Brewster made it as a finalist after a week-long tryout process was coming to a close. However, she had zero intentions of moving to Colorado at the time and decided to return home before the team was announced so that she could finish her last two years at NMSU.
“I only decided to go [try out] a month before, and so when I did make it as a finalist, I was like I don’t have any money, I still have another year of school I have to finish, and I just didn’t set my life up to be able to move if I did make it,” she explained. “I didn’t want to go through the entire process and take a spot away from a girl that could’ve made it and then turn around and be like, ‘oh, I can’t be here anyway.’”
Despite leaving Colorado without a Broncos uniform in hand, Sha’uri fully intends on trying out for the team again this coming spring; this time with a college degree and another year and a half of collegiate dance experience under her belt. If Brewster does make the Denver Broncos cheerleaders, she will be the first NMSU Sundancer to further her career in pom as an NFL cheerleader.