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Thunder up: Alumna dances for NBA team

“All of us were standing backstage, holding hands with our eyes closed. When they called my name, I just stood there in disbelief.”

ORU 2011 health and physical science graduate Dominique Barnett, then took the stage to join the 2012-13 Oklahoma City Thunder Girl dance team.

“I remember standing on stage, looking out into the crowd and thinking I am literally on this team,” Barnett said. “It was scary and everything I wanted at the same time.”

She competed with 200 other young women during a week-long process of interviews along with jazz, hip-hop, “pom” and free-style routines.

The Bartlesville, Okla. native started dancing at the age of five, and was a member of the ORU dance team in 2010. While at ORU she interned with a trainer at a gym, who asked her what she wanted to do next in her life.

“I told him I would ultimately like to dance for the NBA,” Barnett said. He informed her about the upcoming Thunder Girl auditions, and she started preparing for a spot on the 20-member team. She now performs for crowds by the thousands while she cheers on the OKC Thunder basketball team.

“I went from having this conservative personality to being in the spotlight,” Barnett said.

The Thunder Girls began rehearsal in August. They sometimes learn a dance in just one day, with only one or two practices to memorize the choreography. The dancers are also required to have personal exercise regimens.

Previous professional sports team dancer and second season manager and choreographer of the OKC Thunder Girls, Paige Carter, said, “Dominique has exceptional work ethic in the gym as well as at practice. She expects a lot out of herself.” The other Thunder Girls agree.

“As a team member, Dominique helps keep the group together with her positive attitude,” said Michelle Langford. “She is so strong and is always there for everyone with good advice.”

Dominique BarnettBarnett was unsure of how long she would stay with the Thunder Girls at the beginning of the season, but plans on auditioning for another season.

The whole organization has become more personal to Barnett than just a team.

“Emotionally, there’s so much that goes into this with the girls and the community,” Barnett said. “It becomes a part of you.”

Barnett believes that ORU played a vital role in preparing her for this new phase of her life. Barnett said that the ORU community helped her accept herself.

“People may never guess this about me, but I used to get social anxiety,” Barnett said. “I feel like ORU was a place of healing and acceptance.”

Barnett said the most influential and inspiring person to her has been ORU student Dillon Coggeshall. Coggeshall passed away Sept. 25, 2011 from injuries he received five days earlier and after losing his balance and falling from his longboard.

“His legacy was ‘living fearless,’” Barnett said. “By doing that, I feel that God brought me to this place in my life, and I’m excited see what He has for me in the future.”

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