Kayla Umagat has realized her dreams of dancing professionally on the big stage.
She was born to perform, learning her first dance moves as a youngster and continuing her passion at Kentwood High School before becoming a Sea Gal for the NFL’s Seahawks for the past two seasons.
“Being a Sea Gal was really fun, and I definitely loved it,” she said. “I loved being able to do what I love in front of my home state.”
The Kent woman recently has taken her talent elsewhere – to Los Angeles – to join the Laker Girls dance team for the upcoming NBA season.
Family and friends encouraged Umagat to try out for the squad. She did, and she made it.
“My dad and brother love basketball,” Umagat said. “They are just the most amazing people to me, (and) their team was the Lakers after the Sonics left (Seattle).”
Umagat is ready for the next chapter in her young life, having gained the experience from working with the 30-member Sea Gal squad.
“Right when I moved to L.A., I got to work with another really great group of girls. It (was) nice to transition from one team to another team,” she said.
But going from the NFL turf to the NBA hardwood will be an adjustment, Umagat admitted. The Lakers play 41 regular-season games at their downtown arena, The Staples Center. Dancing on the arena floor compared to soft field is something she’s getting used to. Dancing at a high level for a pro sports team means overcoming the customary aches, pains and strains that come with performing. Umagat said she has pushed through the pain.
Umagat loves to perform, even if she has to conquer some stage fright.
“It’s like the first 30 seconds before I perform I have a freak-out,” Umagat said, “but when I step onto the field or the court, I know that’s where I belong.”
Umagat said learning routines and making them “game ready” is always a challenge, but an extremely fun one. She’s trained in ballet, jazz, tap, modern, pointe, hula, Tahitian and hip-hop.
“It is very hard. First, you learn the routine, have a few weeks to sit on it while practicing it, and then you clean (up) the dance,” she said. “It’s basically learn, clean, critique, and then (you’re) game ready.”
“Clean the dance,” according to Umagat, is when you go through every single count of a routine that leads to performing it with the team for the next practice. By that time, she said, you should be ready to perform the dance with few mistakes.
To prepare for practices and games, Umagat stays fit with cardio workouts. She also tries to eat healthy.
“This is my only body, and my body is what allows me to dance, so I really need to take care of my body,” Umagat said.
Umagat, a 2014 Kentwood graduate, is the daughter of Audrey Cambronero and Franklin Umagat and the great granddaughter of the late Rufino “Robert” Cambronero, a Filipino-American and World War II Bataan Death March POW survivor who served the U.S. Army.
With a strong passion for children, Umagat has volunteered at elementary schools, working and reading with students. She also has worked with charities such as Ethiopia Reads and also organized clothing and food drives around her community. The 2014 Miss Kent was a 2015 Miss Washington USA contestant.
Umagat wants to become a nurse some day. For now, though, she plans on doing what she loves for as long as she can.
“Performing is nothing I can explain,” she said. “It’s like walking into Disneyland … (and) Disneyland is like everyone’s favorite place.
“When I walk onto the court, I fall in love.”