MIAMI, OK — A decades-old tradition at Northeast Oklahoma A&M College was put on hold this week.
College officials suspended the Norse Stars dance program Wednesday for one year after the organization fielded only seven dancers for the upcoming school year.
“The number of dancers has gone down in recent years,” said Dale Patterson, NEO athletic director. “Maybe it's the sign of the times.”
NEO is a two-year community college with an enrollment of about 2,000 students. The first Norse Stars squad performed in 1951, school officials said.
The squad performs at halftime during NEO's football and basketball games. Throughout the years, the prestigious dance troupe fielded as many as 50 dancers.
Last year, the Norse Stars began with eight women, and by the time basketball season rolled around, the squad had grown to 12 members, Patterson said. For years, the number of students participating in the program has been declining, he said.
“This program is one of the most storied and cherished extracurricular programs in school history and we will not give up on it,” said Patterson, whose wife and daughter both were members of the squad.
School officials don't think it's fair to Norse Stars alumnae and current students to field a team with only a few girls, he said. They intend to field an expanded version of the Norse Stars for the 2013-14 school year and they will honor the scholarships extended to the current Norse Stars, Patterson said.
Christi Leonard, Norse Stars dance instructor, does not have a listed telephone number. Email messages sent to her were not returned.
“I don't know how they will be able to bring it back,” said Kedre James, a member of the 1976-77 squads. “We had a big squad — over 40 girls — and I was very proud to be part of it.”
James said she was shocked and then saddened when she heard of the school's decision to drop the team.