AHS Alum & Cardiac Nurse Talks Passion & Purpose As Head Dance Coach at Butler University
When Paige Camp was just three years old, she gravitated towards dance. She loved how moving her body to music made her feel, both physically and emotionally. When she was in sixth grade, however, the studio she attended closed. Instead of shopping around for another, she took it as a sign to grow her skills in other areas, including soccer, volleyball and track & field.
Three years later, she joined Avon High School’s soccer team as well as the DECA club (an international organization devoted to preparing future leaders that focuses on management, entrepreneurship and marketing). Though she was staying plenty busy, she felt an inexplicable void. The school’s dance coach, Jennifer Henshaw, encouraged Camp to audition for the Avon Gold Dance team and she’s so glad she did. It was the missing puzzle piece in her life.
“Henshaw was a very hard coach, but dancing for her my sophomore, junior and senior years really prepared me for college and pro dance teams,” Camp says. “She expected us to have a great work ethic and function at a high level.”
All of her hard work paid off because after graduating from AHS in 2014, she won a spot on her college dance squad at the University of Kentucky, dancing all four years and competing in nationals as a freshman.
“I had to learn how to manage my time because we were practicing three or four times a week,” Camp says.
The team would perform at football games, arriving at the stadium three hours prior to the game and then dancing all three hours of the game. They also performed at home basketball games and competitions. Camp and her teammates placed in the Top 5 in UDA Division 1A Hip Hop three years in a row and represented Team USA at the ICU World Championship for Pom and Hip Hop in 2017.
Well versed in multiple styles of dance, Camp was thrilled to be asked to serve as AHS’s hip hop choreographer from 2016-2018.
After graduating with her Bachelors of Science in Nursing, Camp became an assistant coach for the Butler University Dance Team during the 2018-2019 season before landing the head coaching job at the start of this season. In addition, Paige works three days a week as a registered cardiac nurse at St. Vincent.
Butler has two different dance squads — the Butler University Dance Team (BUDT), which is a 20-person squad that dances at football and basketball games and the Bulldog Dance Squad (BDS), 11 girls who perform at women’s basketball and volleyball games (and occasionally other sports).
The BUDT practices six hours a week and performs at one or two games a week during the thick of the season. The BUDT classic is dancing with poms with high energy and interaction with the crowd. They also do a kick line. Last season, the girls learned 21 separate routines of all different styles.
“The girls dance the entire basketball game. Whenever there is music on, they’re dancing,” says Camp, noting that they perform one routine for football and two routines for basketball for every game.
The squad also performs at special events. For instance, over the summer, they performed for the NICU family reunion at St. Vincent. They also attended Butler’s golf outing and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDFR) walk through downtown Indy. The Butler Dance Team also hosts an annual kids’ clinic that invites more than 65 kids, ages 4-10, to come learn a routine, which they perform at halftime of a men’s basketball game.
Though Camp admits that sometimes it still feels a little weird being on the other side of the pom poms, she is thrilled to have transitioned from dancer to coach.
“Sometimes I get a little jealous because I wish I was out there dancing, too, but it’s fun to see the girls improve at every practice,” Camp says. “Honestly, my favorite thing about the job is when I see how much the girls enjoy it and how this adds to their college experience. My college experience certainly would not have been the same without dance. It’s my happy place.”
Though she has been involved in dance and athletics her whole life, she’s been lucky to have remained relatively injury-free.
“I got hurt more playing outside when I was growing up,” she says. “But I’ve seen teammates tear their ACLs and it’s heartbreaking.”
She has also witnessed the flip side of injury, however.
“They come back even stronger because they love it so much,” Camp says. “You can build back up really fast because the muscle memory in dance is ridiculous.”
Through the years, dance has certainly served as a coping mechanism during hard times.
“It’s absolutely one of the best things,” says Camp, who uses dance as her go-to activity whenever she’s bored, blue or bursting with joy. “When I’m sad, it’s therapy to dance. When I’m happy, I blare music and dance around the room.”
While Camp choreographs some of the routines, team captains do others, and the girls on the squad can submit a proposal explaining the type of dance number they would like to put together.
“It’s good for them to be creative and experience that moment of being in charge of the team,” Camp says. “Presenting, pitching clearly and answering questions on the spot — those are all important aspects in life. Plus, to grow as a dancer you have to be able to teach.”
Camp’s dance journey has taught her that what’s meant to be, will be. For instance, when her dance studio closed in her youth, the time off made her realize how much she missed it. Dancing is a good metaphor for life because if one dedicates the time to train, despite setbacks and rejections, success will transpire.
“You have to take things as they come, accept it and move with it rather than panic,” Camp says. “That translates to everything in life. Keep your head up, learn from it, give 110% and try again.”
By the time the girls have graduated from Butler, they are seasoned dancers, and many go on to dance professionally for NBA and NFL teams. Others, like Camp, become coaches.
“My job is easy because these girls are so talented,” says Camp, noting that several girls have gone on to become Colts cheerleaders.
Dancer Riley Banks, also an AHS alum and currently a junior at Butler, has been fortunate enough to have Camp both as a teammate and a coach.
“Paige is one of the biggest reasons that I continue to love dance,” Banks says. “Her passion and love for the sport is so inspiring. She was an amazing teammate and is now an even better coach.”