Center Grove Alum Recalls 19-Year Dance Journey

Photography Provided

The lights and sounds of Ray Skillman Stadium and Vandermeer Gymnasium helped prepare Center Grove High School graduate Aria Baird for Banker’s Life Fieldhouse and her role as a Pacemate with the Indiana Pacers. The 2015 alumna has been dancing for 19 years and is in her third season as a Pacemate.

Baird began dancing at the age of three with tumbling and moved into competitive cheer when she was six. She was a member of the Center Grove High School Varsity Dance Team from 2011-2015. She says the Dance Team taught her how to be a team-oriented dancer.

“I used to be very focused on myself and how I danced and then being a part of a team made me realize that if one of us sticks out, everything looks off,” she says.

Baird’s high school dance coach, Hannah Mueller, saw greatness in Baird.

“Right away, I knew she was going to be a huge asset for the team,” Mueller says. “She was already an accomplished gymnast and dancer, so I was able to utilize both in team routines.”

“Hannah helped me a lot with growing as a dancer, encouraging me to learn new techniques and tricks,” Baird recalls. “She also taught me how to be a part of a team and really appreciate and learn from the other dancers around me.”

Baird says she loved her four glorious years with the CG Varsity Dance Team.

“I have several fond memories of being on the CG dance team,” she says. “One of them was winning state with my duet partner my senior year. I loved dancing for CG because I was always dancing with my best friends. To this day, my three closest friends are the ones I danced with on the CG Dance Team.”

Baird recalls her emotions while waiting to find out if she made the squad after her first tryout with the Pacemates.

“I was so nervous sitting in the locker room waiting for my named to be called,” she says. “It felt like forever. When I heard my name called, I couldn’t help but cry because I was so happy and excited. I knew at that moment that all my years of practicing, dancing, the pain and work I went through paid off.

“Being a Pacemate is a lot of fun, but there is a lot of hard work that goes into it,” Baird adds. “We typically learn a new dance and then practice dances we learned from previous practices. We also have appearances that we go to for events. When the actual season starts, we are also at every home game. It’s a lot of physical work, and it can be hard on your body, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

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