Stay gold: The LSU Golden Girls mark 60 years
For a select few dancers, the thrill of performing with the LSU Golden Girls, the university’s premiere dance line, has been the ultimate dream come true.
This fall, the LSU Golden Girls will commemorate a special milestone. On October 4, the legendary dance line will celebrate its 60th anniversary with a gala at the Old State Capitol. Around 175 Golden Girls alumnae will reunite for a performance during the LSU vs. Utah State football game the next day. Five original Golden Girls from the 1959 inaugural team will be there for the special performance, says Leslie Day, who danced as a Golden Girl for two years in the late 1970s and serves as the 60th-anniversary gala chairperson.
The friendships made on the Golden Girls dance line last a lifetime. “We are a very close-knit group,” says Jan Waguespack, who danced for three years as a Golden Girl beginning in 1969. “It’s more like a sorority that has kind of evolved over the years. That was such a thrill when we were young. We never dreamed we’d be able to relive it once a year.”
Led by Tiger Band Director Thomas Tyra, the dance line eventually known as the LSU Golden Girls took the field for the first time in 1959. The dance line was then known as the “Ballet Corps” and was led by choreographer, dancer and former LSU physical education professor Mary Elizabeth Norckauer, who also had coached figure skaters with the touring company Holiday on Ice, says Waguespack.
Thanks to their eye-catching costumes, the Ballet Corps was announced as “the glittering girls of gold” before each game, says Day. In 1965, the dance line’s name changed to the LSU Golden Girls.
The rest is history.
Day says she has been attending LSU football games since she was in the second grade. One of her favorite memories was watching the LSU Golden Girls began their routine by dropping their capes to reveal their gold costumes and watching the crowd go wild. “That was my dream growing up,” she says, “to be a Golden Girl.”
As a member of her high-school dance team and lifelong LSU fan, becoming a Golden Girl was Waguespack’s next logical step. “Well, it was, you know, the ultimate goal of any little girl who danced in Louisiana to be an LSU Golden Girl,” says Waguespack, a retired educator who now works as a licensed professional counselor.
Waguespack says she remembers the moment she received a telephone call letting her know she made the line. “I told my family, ‘I’m an LSU Golden Girl!’” she says. “They were all so thrilled.”
One memory that stands out for Waguespack is when the Tiger Band was named the “All-American College TV Band” in a national contest sponsored by General Motors. The band and Golden Girls flew to Miami to march in the Orange Bowl Parade and perform during halftime at the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day 1971. The Tiger Band then flew to Oakland, California, where they performed at halftime of the East-West Shrine Bowl, she says.
“It was wonderful,” says Waguespack. “I can remember we went to Fisherman’s Wharf. They just really took good care of us.”
For the 60th-anniversary gala celebration, the 13 different uniforms worn by the Golden Girls over the years will be on display, says Waguespack. The shirts to be worn during the reunion performance mimic the design of the current Golden Girls uniform designed by former Golden Girl Suzanne Perron St. Paul, a New Orleans-based designer who creates couture bridal and debutante gowns.
Over the years, former Golden Girls have become not only designers but also physicians, educators, wives, mothers and countless other professions. “I’m very proud to be a Golden Girl,” says Day, “because of the accomplishments these women have made.”