Amy Karhu ‘88 Hits the Court as an NBA Dancer

Amy Karhu ‘88 insists that by no means is she a professional dancer. But, in fact, she is. Karhu is part of the 2023-2024 NBA season Golden State Warriors Hardwood Senior Classics Dance Team. The team, for those 55 and older, performs various dance routines at the Golden State Warriors basketball games. Getting there was no easy task. She says the tryouts were rigorous and something she’d never imagined doing. 

“Auditioning was the scariest thing I’d ever done in my life. But once I discovered the opportunity (while scrolling through Instagram) I just had to do it,” Karhu says.

There were 100 people to start, and just three hours to learn the routine, each round whittling down contestants to 60 finalists. As a finalist, she had to attend a boot camp to learn a routine with just days to nail it at a final audition. She made the cut and has been dancing since made the team in 2023.

A new chapter mid-life

Steph Curry may dominate the headlines when it comes to the Warriors, but Karhu is a warrior in her own right. The bubbly high school teacher says her fifties have been a time of transformation and joy, having battled addiction and unhealthy weight in her earlier years.

Karhu says, “This is an opportunity I never thought would exist for me. Three years ago I was about 50 pounds heavier. I was borderline diabetic, and I decided to take control of my life and my health and lost 50 pounds. And so even feeling like I was worthy of auditioning was huge.” She notes the common and often-felt sting of being an “older” woman. “When you get to a certain age, it’s almost like we’re invisible. So this has been really life affirming and life-changing. It’s been an example to my son and my students that it’s OK to struggle, that we have to do hard things in life.”

Funnily enough, she credits her class of high school juniors as giving her the courage to dance in front of strangers.

“I showed them my routine, and I figured if they supported me, if I could survive them, I could perform for the audition,” says Karhu.

Golden State Warrior Amy Karhu '88

Growth at Allegheny

Karhu did take dance during her time at Allegheny, where she majored in psychology and minored in English, and she notes all of her experiences stuck with her. She tried out for Orchesis Dance Company and was rejected three times until she finally made the team senior year.

“I was not the best, but I kept showing up, I’ve always been very determined once my mind is set,” she says. She participated in her classmate’s Senior Comp titled, “100 Years of Dance.”

Karhu recalls many of her life’s firsts occurring at Allegheny. As a girl from a small town in Ohio, and a first-generation college student, she didn’t have much experience under her belt. From attending protests to acting in a play to joining ROTC, she loved the diverse experiences the College offered. She remembers the day she wore her uniform to a psychology class and her professor, Dr. Mary Hudak, was surprised. “I had to admit to her that I’d gone through basic training and that I realized it was not for me. Instead of looking at that as a failure, she really applauded my ability to try and learn what I did not want to do,” Karhu says. That notion of being seen by an adult, of having someone take an interest, is one she tries to model with her own students.

A new routine

“Karhu’s life has been a series of hurdles, and this new chapter has been rewarding. “I didn’t expect any of this. If you would have seen me three years ago, I look at that person, and it’s like I don’t even recognize her. I am also a recovering alcoholic. I’ll be coming up on 32 years. I just want people to know it’s never too late to change your life. When you’re scared and you’re wondering, just get hungry and go for what you want.”

The performance schedule of two-a-month requires multiple, several-hours-long rehearsals. They learn new routines for every game. All told, it takes about 20 hours of practice to deliver a one-minute routine. Isn’t that taxing, on top of holding a full-time teaching job? “Yeah, let me tell you something, everything hurts! But, I’m a paid NBA dancer over 55. I love it.”