UPDATE: The full Madame Ants roster was released Thursday, Aug. 8. Check out the fact box for more information.
For small-town Pennsylvania transplant Lierin Rossman, the Madame Ants Dance Team was a perfect opportunity to advance her dance skills while meeting people in Fort Wayne.
Rossman began dancing in high school and continued through college and law school. When she moved to Fort Wayne to work at Bellinger Law Office last year, she tried out for and made the Madame Ants Dance Team. This year, she is hoping for a repeat.
On Saturday, Rossman and 14 other prospective team members tried out for the Madame Ants Dance Team at the Concordia Theological Seminary Gymnasium. Another try out was to be held Monday afternoon.
A total 20 women tried out for the team, but coach and choreographer Sheenah Johnson had the toughest job of all - deciding which 10 to 12 women will make the team.
“Being a Madame Ant is a huge time commitment, requiring dedication and professionalism. The Madame Ants Dance Team is a huge steppingstone for these dancers,” she said.
Johnson, a former dance team member, said no matter how long she continues to do her job, it never gets any easier.
“It's nerve-wracking for me at tryouts because I look at the overall potential of the group. It's tough looking at the new members versus the returning members. I don't like to hurt anyone and I don't want anyone to go home with hurt feelings, but at the end of the day, it's who actually brought it that day. I look at who was ready, prepared, physically fit, understood the routine, retained (the dance) fast and performed well,” Johnson said.
These women spend a lot of time with each other over the course of the Mad Ant's season.
Rossman said the women on the team connect on many levels, from their love of dance to laughs over lunch.
“We are good friends. We hang out outside of dance. We go to TinCaps games, grab lunch or that kind of stuff. Everyone is friendly and we don't have spats or cliques. We have a really great dynamic,” Rossman said.
Preseason practice includes a weekend camp to learn routines, expectations and team-building. The team practices twice a week during the season: two hours Tuesday and four hours Sunday. The team performs at 24 home games, spending at least five hours at each game. There are also required community appearances throughout the season.
Rossman said the team works hard and is always trying to find ways to please the crowd.
“We put a lot more work in this than many people realize. It's a lot of work including the blood, sweat and tears,” Rossman said. “It can be exhausting and overwhelming sometimes but everyone makes do. We put our time in to make everything look good. That is what we do, we aim to please.”
While the women are paid for the work, Heidi Busch, director of communications and game operations, said it's a lot of work for not much pay.
“They are the face of the team. When you come to a Mad Ants game the first thing you experience is a greeting from the team. Every year the standard for the team is set high. They are classy ladies who are good dancers and have a good face for us especially coming off of a great season last year. The (basketball) team can do whatever. They can win. They can lose. But every night you will get to see great dancing and meet some high caliber girls,” Busch said.
To see who made this year's Madame Ants Dance Team, check out The News-Sentinel on Wednesday when Johnson will announce the full roster.