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Area dancers show pregame joy, nerves


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 29, 2001

TAMPA -- What you didn't see on television was the wide-eyed look on Santoya Fields' face as she walked on the field and saw a packed stadium. The Giants were practicing; she was just yards away from them.

"This is so exciting," said Fields, a high school student from St. Petersburg. She was beaming, her eyes and mouth agape.

For 500 local dancers in the pregame show, Sunday proved to be truly super. It was what they practiced for all week, every afternoon, some after a day at school.

It also was what Tom Cooney of Palm Harbor had waited seven years for. Cooney, dressed in black and hardly showing the emotion he was feeling inside, performed the national anthem in sign language, something he had done in stadiums across the country for 38 years but never for the Super Bowl.

Cooney was shown on national TV, standing in front of Ray Charles and the Backstreet Boys. But for many other pregame performers, their only audience was in the stands.

But it didn't matter. Just as it didn't matter that many of them had to wear bathing suits in the chilly air of twilight.

They were inches from the action.

"I had a dream about this last night," Fields said. "The Giants won and we got to party with the team."

Danielle Cordano, 15, could hardly sleep.

"I'm nervous," she said. "I've never performed in front of so many people."

The dancers waited on the field, by the 20-yard line, behind the yellow rope. Some dressed as pirates, others held hula hoops for the beach scene.

The stage was wheeled on field. Fake palm trees were carried out. So were other props: an oversized beach ball, a lighthouse.

Then the dancers, on cue from a lady with headphones, took to the field, covering it with hundreds of dancers in bathing suits, hula hooping.

There were some concessions to being so close to the action. After each scene, the dancers had to run back to the sidelines and change right there, their costumes hanging from rolling metal racks.

"All I saw was all this flashing," said Elena Rewolf, 16, wiggling into her gold lame skirt. Sting was getting ready to sing Desert Rose, and she had to hurry up.

"I will treasure this forever."

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