CUYAHOGA FALLS – Little girls take years of dance hoping to dance professionally, and one woman has achieved her dream.
Mika Takahashi dances for the Washington Wizards Dance Team which entertains for the home games of the Washington Wizards basketball team.
Takahashi lived in Cuyahoga Falls from ages 2 to 13 and graduated from Western Reserve Academy in 2015. She graduated from George Washington University with a degree in political communication and dance in May. While attending college, she knew she wanted an opportunity to dance after graduation and attended the prep classes the Washington Wizards have every year before auditions.
"I started going to dance prep classes when I turned 18 so I'd be ready when I graduated from college," Takahashi said.
The part-time dance job works with her attending classes at Georgetown University to earn a masters in public relations and corporate communications. Takahashi said she hopes to work in public relations for a non-profit with a social justice mission.
Although the dancing is mostly hip-hop and pom style, Takahashi trained in ballet at Meneer Jones School of Dance in Munroe Falls.
"I did ballet for 15 years and danced in the Ballet Theatre of Ohio," Takahashi said. "Ballet is my first love and a great foundation for jazz and hip-hop. I'm excited to expand my dance horizons. It's challenging, but it's a really good challenge."
Auditions for the Washington Wizards Dance Team begin with prep classes the month before, Takahashi said. Then July 27 and 28 auditions at Trinity University in Washington, D.C., begin with a free style pom round with cuts. Then they do a hip-hop round and cuts. The final round is jazz, and judges pick 42 finalist for a training camp and a week of rehearsal before the selection.
In the final audition, you do the same routines you did the first time in the three types of dancing but they expect you to be perfect after practicing," Takahashi said. "It was very difficult and exhausting but the prep classes prepared me."
The team consists of 15 women and 10 men and they perform at about 35 home games, she said.
Before basketball season, they dance team practices a few hours a week but during season it can be six days in a row, she said. January and February are the busiest months.
"But being a dancer for any dance company, you put in so much time of your own learning choreography and working out," Takahashi said. "It's not just the time you're practicing."
The majority of dancers are either students or hold a full-time job, she said.
At Meneer, Takahashi said she learned how to manage her time with school and dance lessons and does the same with college and the dance team.
Learning hip-hop and pom has give Takahashi a thirst for other dance styles.
"I recently started hula and Tahitian dancing," Takahashi said. "It's been a fun experience."
Takahashi said dancing will always be a part of her life no matter what her career.
"I definitely hope to continue dancing as long as I can and eventually coach a dance team," she said. "I can't imagine my life without dance."
Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org.