Video: Rukus Entertainment. Rukus Entertaniment is a UCF organization. It' is a group for dancers that specializes in hip-hop. Video by Arnold Godoy, Central Florida Future Arnold Godoy
Behind closed doors might be the only place some feel comfortable dancing to the beat of their favorite songs, but for the members of UCF's Rukus dance team, the stage is its safe zone.
Out of the 90 students who came out to auditions this past August, 43 made it to make up the team of 56 co-ed dancers.
"In order to be in Rukus, you definitely have to have determination, motivation and you have to be willing to sacrifice sleep. Also, [you have to leave] your ego at the door, because we're all family and we all grow together," said Tawanda "Tai" Bernard, a senior interdisciplinary studies major. "Oh, and I think it helps if you are also able to dance."
At auditions, the board members video everything and like to look back on the videos to see growth.
"We do callbacks the second day and we will tell them you have to come 'Rukus ready' because we video everything that happens and then we interview them," said Casey Field, a junior finance and economics major and Rukus president. "We like to re-listen to the interviews to track the growth of the people we are adding to the team."
But the members of the executive board aren't the only ones who see growth among the team.
"Looking back at old videos sometimes, I find myself trying to contain my excitement because my growth is so noticeable," Bernard said.
Rukus members commonly perform at large campus events, such as KD Shakedown and Zeta Lip Sync, but all those performances take practice to be stage-ready.
"My favorite part of performing is the ability to pull emotion from an audience," said Courtney Jones, a freshman chemistry major. "The messages that I am able to share with an audience allows me to create a bond with complete strangers who have experienced the same emotions and obstacles as me."
To practice for these performances, the team gets together every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. in the University Performing Arts Center.
Practices start at 9:30 p.m. by warming up, and after that, the dancing starts.
At the end of practice, the members have their own kind of ritual, what they call "circle up."
Members talk about practice and bring up the highlights.
"We're all like a family. After practice, we all study together and we are always together," Field said. "When I walk into the studio, I feel like I'm home with my family and I don't have to worry about anything."
But many of these dancers didn't come into this talent overnight. Some even started before they reached the age of 10.
"After my mom caught me screaming like Michael Jackson while I was standing on a chair, with a white button-down shirt being blown by the wind from the fan I was standing in front of, she figured it was time for me to start dancing," Bernard said. "I couldn't help myself. I was trying to be like Mike. I was probably 11 at the time."
And those years of dancing may not stop for some, as many members of Rukus plan on continuing dancing after college
"Whether I pursue dance professionally or not, I want to continue growing," Bernard said. "As long as my legs are still functional, I will always be taking classes and finding ways to improve."