WESTBROOK – Alicia Owens set the beat: “And five, six, seven, eight.”

Left arms shot in the air in unison, followed closely by right arms. Then neck rolls. The right hands dropped, followed by the lefts.

The hands went back up, this time clasped together. A 180-degree turn finished the sequence.

The 12 young women were back at the beginning. Then they started again, dancing for spots on the Maine Red Claws dance team.

After a few run-throughs, Owens, the team’s second-year coach, turned on the music — “Let’s Go” by Calvin Harris, an upbeat hip-hop track punctuated by a driving thump, perfect for the dance steps she was teaching.

In the front row at the Drouin Dance Studio, 28-year-old Katie Cyr focused on the movements, each one a building block of the choreographed dance. While others around her appeared lost, she picked up the steps quickly.

By day, Cyr is an operating room nurse at Maine General Hospital in Waterville. At night, she’s a dancer. “It’s kind of my outlet,” she said.

More than a year ago, Cyr was taking a hip-hop class when her instructor, Ruby Gaudette, told her about the Red Claws dance team.

“I basically made her come try out,” Gaudette said Tuesday.

Cyr did, and got hooked instantly. She made the team, joining about a dozen dancers who performed various routines during the Red Claws’ home basketball games at the Portland Expo.

“It’s the most fun job I’ve ever had,” she said.

When Cyr is in the operating room, everything is precise and structured. Dancing is that way, too, she said, but it’s more. Things she can’t express at work, she can express on the dance floor.

“And she’s really good,” said Gaudette, 21, a soon-to-be senior at the University of Southern Maine.

Cyr and Gaudette have likely locked up two of the team’s 14 slots, since they were on last year’s team.

Owens, 30, who’s a product manager for TD Bank when she’s not dancing, has the task of selecting the rest. “I just try to see what the girls can do and whether they will fit in,” she said.

Final decisions likely will be made Sunday, when the next open tryout will be held. The Red Claws will open their fourth season in the NBA D-League this fall.

Some of the dancers, like Gaudette, who has been dancing since she was 3 and tried out last year to cheer for the New England Patriots, are naturals. Others come from different backgrounds, such as cheerleading, and have a harder time mastering the movements.

Cyr is somewhere in the middle.

Owens started teaching another sequence, more complex than the last. Sensing some tension among newcomers, she said: “When you feel confident, smile.”

Cyr hadn’t stopped smiling since the tryout started.

 

Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

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Twitter: @PPHEricRussell