Junior DCC, now underway at Next Step Dance at The Star in Frisco, is about so much more than dance. Cersten, a two-year DCC veteran, learned those lessons thirteen years ago when she first joined Junior DCC. Fast-forward to 2018 and, as Cersten retires from the DCC to begin her first year of medical school, she hopes a new generation of young girls take advantage of the opportunity to follow in her footsteps.
The Junior DCC classes are part of a non-competitive curriculum that is designed for dancers who are discovering the love and excitement of dance. There are two age groups: Mini-DCC (ages 5-to-8), and Junior DCC (ages 9-12). Registration is now open for weekly classes on Thursday evenings at Next Step Dance's new state of the art studio at The Star in Frisco. In addition to dance, the classes teach the DCC acronym of 'Dedication, Character, and Community'.
"I'm very happy that Junior DCC is back and now available at The Star because I know how big an impact it makes on these girls' lives," says Cersten. "That's what it did for me. Way back in 2005, who would have thought it would be my journey? Yes, dance originally brought me to the Junior DCC, and then to LSU where I was a dancer all four years, and now to the Cowboys for the past two seasons. But it's so much more than dance.
"I would tell people who are considering enrolling their children in Junior DCC to do it 100-percent, 100-million-percent. It's more than having fun and teaching how to be a good performer. It also teaches discipline. It's about interacting with people of different backgrounds and cultures. At their young ages, kids won't understand they're learning all these additional lessons; the kids are there to have fun. But interacting with people from all over the city matters a lot because they learn to accept everyone for who they are."
For Cersten, Junior DCC was a family affair.
"I have to give credit to my mom, of course, because I realize now the extra effort it took for her, after she worked all day, to drive me to practice," notes Cersten. "I grew up in Euless and Junior DCC, at that time, was at Valley Ranch in Irving. I tell my mom all the time, 'Thank you so much!' And my dad, too. I realize now how much they did to make all of my dreams come true and have me be a part of dance."
Cersten's mom, Maria, agrees that Junior DCC had a positive impact not only her daughter, but the entire family.
"It was a remarkable experience and it was absolutely fun not only for the child, but also the parents, because we got to see our child go on the field and perform while wearing the Junior DCC uniform," recalls Maria. "At the time that Cersten was in the Junior DCC, of course, I didn't know it was something that she would want to do for the rest of her life. I thought it would just be a fun experience. But she loved it and dance was something that was in her heart. It became a passion. Now, she's made a life out of it.
"There is sacrifice as a parent as we try to create opportunities for our kids. There's always a balancing act. But I think there are a lot of parents that want to get their kids involved in dancing or cheerleading because it may have been their own passion or it might be something your kids' friends enjoy. As a Junior DCC, it gives the kids a chance to see if it's something they do enjoy. And if it's a positive experience, they can decide if it's something they want to pursue and possibly do the rest of their lives."
That's exactly what happened for Cersten. As she pursued her newly found passion for dance at Junior DCC, she was also learning lessons that extended well beyond the dance floor.
"She learned how to present herself," notes Maria. "She can speak in front of a crowd. She learned things that help her in her career in the medical field. She's not afraid to talk to large audiences because of her off-the-field experiences with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. They're performing in front of thousands of people. They're being interviewed on-camera. It helped build her character and she learned skill to take into her professional life."
At the time, Cersten was a pre-teen and didn't realize she was learning life lessons. She was more excited about getting to dance on the same field as superstars like Beyoncé during a Cowboys halftime performances with Destiny's Child. That's because the Junior DCC program offers exclusive opportunities to perform in front of fans at games, as part of halftime, and to perform at different Frisco events and community events. The kids are also exposed to opportunities to do some of the charitable and philanthropic events that are associated with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, like hospital and nursing home visits. These opportunities aren't available in a normal classroom setting.
"As a kid, I'll admit it was fun for me to meet the celebrities," Cersten says with a laugh. "I got to perform the Thanksgiving Halftime Shows with Destiny's Child as well as Kelly Clarkson. We also did the Halloween Halftime Shows. I remember performing with John Legend."
"That can provide even more inspiration because the Junior DCC meet people they can really look up to. It can inspire them work harder in class and do better in practice. It can inspire them to want to be a better person, a better dancer, and better young lady."
Maria will also admit those days on the football field were extra special because of the celebrity 'wow' factor.
"I remember when Cersten was performing with John Legend and they were doing their practice and walk-through on the field," says Maria. "I joked with Cersten, 'Give me your uniform so I can pretend I'm you!' I wanted to stand next to John Legend (laughing). It was a lot of fun."
The joy of dancing alongside the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders as a Junior DCC member is something Cersten remembered when she decided to audition for the DCC in 2016. After graduating with a degree in biology from LSU, she returned home and made the team. During the day, she worked as a surgery tech, then she would rehearse at the DCC studios at night. Performances on game day and appearances at team events were icing on the cake.
And now as she leaves the DCC to pursue her medical degree, she says all the hard work was worth the effort because of the relationships she made along the way.
"It's really about the sisterhood and the legacy," says Cersten. "It's kind of like a small sorority because it's a bond for the rest of my life. I know all of my friends from LSU and DCC feel the same way. We talk about it all the time. We'll always have that friendship and be there for each other through the ups-and-downs of life, through our careers and our wedding and having kids. It's really incredible how much you carry forward with you, and it started for me by being with a fun group like Junior DCC."
Registration for Junior DCC classes at The Star in Frisco is now open. For more information, visit DallasCowboys.com/JuniorDCC or contact Next Step Dance at (214) 387-4466.