For the Michigan women's gymnastics team, music matters

Junior Olivia Karas performed a floor routine that included a mashup of Madonna’s “Vogue” and “4 Minutes,” as well as a clip from the film “High School Musical 2."

Junior Olivia Karas performed a floor routine that included a mashup of Madonna’s “Vogue” and “4 Minutes,” as well as a clip from the film “High School Musical 2." Buy this photo
Zoey Holmstrom/Daily

 

Sunday, December 3, 2017 - 7:06pm

Choosing a song for the balance beam and floor performance is a multi-faceted and meticulous process for members of the Michigan women’s gymnastics team. 

The athletes will first listen to some music on Spotify or Apple Music, and then they need approval from Wolverines’ coach Bev Plocki. If she grants permission for the usage of the song — she has ultimate veto power — then the song is sent to Zach Cook, the fiancé of former Michigan athlete Nicole Artz, who creates a mix for each member. The Wolverines will then a make a decision. If they can sense a vibe to it, they’ll use it. If not, back to the listening stage.

“A lot of it is just to bring our personality out,” said junior Olivia Karas. “It’s pretty upbeat and fun. It is a good way for us to get into the mood and enjoy it.”

Added Plocki: “It is very important to me that they love what they’re doing.”

On Sunday afternoon, Karas performed her floor routine with quite a varied assortment of music. She included a mashup of Madonna’s “Vogue” and “4 Minutes,” as well as a clip from the film “High School Musical 2” featuring the song “Work this Out.”

Plocki, though, explained that this process took a bit to figure out and perfect, though. Initially, Karas’ first choice was vetoed by the coach.

“I knew she could do better and we found it,” Plocki said. “Sometimes you can pick a song that’s good, but if you don’t have something else to blend with it, it gets disconnected and it’s not overall good. She had a piece, but it wasn’t enough and we couldn’t find anything that was as good to mix something with it.

“I knew we could do better and I know she could do better. She came to me with this and I was like ‘Perfect, love it.’ ”

Karas loved it, too. With the help of former Wolverine Reema Zakaria, she designed a routine that would best reflect her peppy and upbeat personality. For her balance beam routine, she used Whitney Houston’s “I Want to Dance with Somebody,” and the aforementioned Madonna remix for her floor performance.

“(Reema) and I were like, ‘I think we need to something super sassy’ and we found this “Vogue” mix and said ‘That’s it, right there,’ ” Karas said. “My dad, that’s his favorite song. So my whole family was like ‘This is it.’ We went with that.”

“I like to dance to my music and I like to use my music as a means of helping me perform. And picking that really brought out my sassy Madonna side.”

Others look to their music as a way to do something risky. Senior Brianna Brown, for example, wanted to create a performance that differed from her three previous seasons. She spent the offseason working with Plocki and Zakaria in order to find a routine that would work — as these songs generally last the entire season.

For the beam, she selected “O come to the Altar” by Elevation Worship, but for the floor, she wanted to come out of her comfort zone.

“Usually I do a very slow, graceful routine,” Brown said. “I was trying to find something that was very unique that had a big drop to it. I had a lot of help from my teammates — (sophomores) Sam Roy, Lexi Funk. We picked music, put a bunch of different ones together, and then we had Reema, who put it all together and it ended up what it is now.”

Added Plocki: “What fits Olivia would not fit Brianna. What fits Brianna would not fit (senior) Emma McLean. Everybody has their own personality and it’s important that the music that they pick reflect that.

“Olivia is spunky, peppy. She’s that quick-hitting, spunky personality and so it’s important the music fits the athlete and it’s going to be captivating and draw the judges in the crowd into what they’re doing. It’s a good sign when you look over and you see the judge tapping her toe under the table.”

And Sunday afternoon, the judges did that a lot. They tapped along during Karas’ Madonna and High School Musical-filled performance, and they did it, during Brown’s remix to a “Circle of Life.”

Though it was just an exhibition, the Wolverines long process to find their perfect songs appears to have paid off.