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Esko grad dances with ’Wolves

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Simon Thill

For the Pine Journal

Despite not being under the direction of Kevin Costner, Nicole Zauhar’s success as a dancer is nothing short of epic. The Esko graduate is dancing with the Minnesota Timberwolves dance team. As a high school standout, Zauhar relentlessly pursued her dream of dancing professionally, through college and beyond, until finally reaping the benefits of her hard work and dedication to the sport she loves.

Starting at the ripe age of 2 years old, Zauhar was driven to keep stride with her older sister at Becky’s Dance Studio of Cloquet. By the time she was 12, she was keeping up with the older girls and becoming increasingly competitive in her passion.

Without a high school dance team, however, Zauhar resorted to the next best thing: cheerleading.

Twin Ports Elite competitive cheer team was comprised of several of the surrounding area high schools. Coached by her mother, Deb Zauhar, Nicole continued to refine her skills in a competitive setting with Twin Ports Elite.

Zauhar’s post-secondary career was spent at Concordia University in St. Paul.

“I danced there for three years, coached for one, then luckily began my professional dancing career with LEGACY LC shortly thereafter,” said Zauhar of her right-in-stride college career. LEGACY LC is a travelling Michael Jackson impersonator show in which Zauhar was a back-up dancer.

“I was able to travel and dance both nationally and internationally with the company, to whom I am very thankful for giving me the start of my professional dance career,” continued Zauhar.

After a few years dancing with LEGACY LC., Zauhar caught wind that some of her college dance-mates were auditioning for the Timberwolves Dance Team.

“I had auditioned for the Vikings before so I thought I’d give it try,” said Zauhar.

She didn’t make the team her first, second, or even third time trying out, but that didn’t deter her.

“I was having so much fun trying out and just knew this is what I was supposed to be doing.”

After her third time missing the cut, Zauhar was invited to the Master Class Program that consists of dancers who — like her — didn’t make the team but were standouts among the rest. Zauhar trained with the Master Class Program for two seasons until finally making the team.

“This was definitely a long-awaited dream come true. It took years to get my fitness and dance skills to the NBA professional level!” exclaimed Zauhar.

Spending at least five days a week with her teammates, who are all on very strictly regulated diets and workout schemes, Zauhar refers to them as family. The coach, an ex-NBA dancer of five different teams, is both a role model for the team and a strong voice of discipline.

“She is extremely professional and knows what she wants from us. She expects us to be on our A-game and be the best brand-ambassadors to the organization,” Zauhar told of her coach.

As a longtime veteran of dance, Nicole Zauhar understands the importance of devotion and being a student of the sport. Performing at every home game and dancing during every timeout, Zauhar’s combination of stamina and skill is of the small percentage of elite athletes within our country.

As she continues to represent her hometown with persistent hard-work, devotion, and class, she offers a window into the professional world for us outsiders looking in and watching proudly.