By Hope Eaton
Carrie Berry started her dance career with Kathy Todd Dance Studio at the age of three. She switched to Connie’s Performing Arts the following year. Carrie went on to serve as a Butler Sugar Bear and eventually was elected captain. During her tenure as a Sugar Bear, the team was awarded second place at regionals, a bid to semifinals, and placed second in their division out of 25 teams at the Universal Dance Association (UDA) Nationals. This was in addition to her making the USA all-star team and performing for the Queen of England.
Carrie traded her Sugar Bear red for Cardinal red as a University of Louisville Ladybird. She has shared her talents as a choreographer with Connie’s Performing Arts for 15 years, transitioning into coaching several school teams in the Kentuckiana area.
For Carrie, the natural progression was to go back to her roots and share her love of dancing with her alma mater.
Two years ago, Carrie began her journey of molding young Sugar Bears and “effecting change in young people’s lives in a positive way”. Carrie leads a prestigious program that dates back to 1982. She is the 14th coach, leading a team that had 11 members this past season.
Technique is key in dance. The Sugar Bears engage in technique training regularly at Connie’s Performing Arts. The team practices three to four times a week. The dancers huddle before every performance and recite the dancer’s prayer: “Lord, I want to dance with you tonight. May all my leaps & turns be right. We will dance across the sky together & I will cherish this moment forever. Amen.” This tradition is important to the team as they are members of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).
The Sugar Bears have several team outings throughout the season and take this time to bond as a dance family. Parent involvement is also abundant in the group. Parents assist with the three to four fundraisers necessary to fund the season. Parents and Butler Principal William Allen alike are stellar supporters of the team. These ladies perform at all home football and basketball games as well as on site exhibitions. The game performances are in addition to three to four competitions per season.
Off the dance floor, the Sugar Bears abide by strict rules regarding academic eligibility set forth by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA). Jefferson County is governed by the KHSAA, which mandates that an athlete must be passing four hours of instruction to participate each week. Collectively, the Sugar Bears exceed this requirement by giving the same focus in the classroom as they do on the floor. The team has a combined 3.5 GPA.
Carrie has much to look forward to with a group of capable and studious girls. Her motive? “I wanted to give back to the community,” she said. In the two years that she has led the Sugar Bears, they have won two state championships.
She added, “Hopefully this becomes our tradition”. With the goal of getting a three-peat, Carrie is actively preparing her team for this next challenge. It will take much dedication and hard work to take her program to the next level.