Dollies dance with decades of traditions

Once a Dollie, always a Dollie — even since the 1950s. For over seven decades, the dancers have been accompanying the Stanford Band, passing down traditions and treasured bonds to each year’s new quintet.

The Dollies are numbered by height, with #1 being the shortest and #5 being the tallest. Each cohort also inherits a repertoire of over 40 dances that have been choreographed and passed down from previous Dollies.

“There have traditionally only ever been five. Because of that, the role gets passed down every year so that more people can have a chance to do it,” said Ava Tiffany ’26, who is currently Dollie #5.

One of the group’s most treasured traditions is “Dolly Splash,” where the incoming quintet is introduced at a spring rally. The outgoing Dollies officially pass down their titles to newly selected dancers, who perform 10 routines before they are thrown into the Claw fountain.

The group’s dance formations have also followed the same patterns for decades, according to Alyssa Frederick ’24, who was Dollie #4 last year. This means that, for nearly their entire history, all Dollie #2s have occupied the same position in the same sequences. Outgoing Dollies teach incoming Dollies of the same number, contributing to a sense of camaraderie among them — former members are often referred to as “moms” and “grandmas.”

There is “a very big sense of pride” around the members’ assigned positions, Frederick said.

Besides home sports games, the Dollies also join the Band at community events throughout the year. 

Five Stanford dollies pose outside Green library with their hands outstretched.
From left to right: 2019-2020 Dollies Julia Raven ‘21 M.A. ‘22, Jasmine Rodriguez ’22, Tiffany Liu ‘22, Charlotte Brewer ‘22 and Savannah Payne ‘22 dance at their final rally next to Meyer Green. (Photo: MARIA CORREA/The Stanford Daily)

Second-year bioengineering Ph.D. student Janelle Kaneda ’19 M.S. ’21, who was Dollie #1 during the 2016-2017 academic year, fondly recalled performing at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House in honor of a Stanford alum. It was a far cry from the typical on-campus rally — “We even got our own dressing room backstage,” Kaneda said.

Despite the team’s precisely maintained legacy, one important lapse from tradition is allowed: Dollies design their own dresses, one for each quarter. The color schemes have remained the same over the years — bright red with white trim for the fall, cardinal red and white for the winter and white with red trim for the spring — but each group of Dollies adds their own unique flair to their outfits.

Dollies are united not only by their matching outfits but also by the hours they spend together, especially when rehearsals start during the summer.

Karina Chen ’25, who was Dollie #1 during the 2022-2023 academic year, said the bond between the Dollies was “like no other.”

“In the summer we all lived together, learned dances together and just did random things together. It was such a wonderful experience,” Chen said.

This bond spans generations, as each new recruit joins a decades-long legacy of past Dollies.

“At the end of the day, it’s not really about the dance. It’s about the community,” Frederick said. “You see that a lot of the Dollies will do their Dollie dances at each other’s weddings. It’s wild that you remember the dances for that long, too.”

For Chen, performing in the group was “life-changing.” The countless hours spent dancing amid the Band’s notoriously funky atmosphere shaped her time at Stanford, she said.

“Obviously, other schools have their typical dance teams or cheerleading teams, but I think Dollies is something so special and so, so specific to Stanford,” Chen said. “It encapsulates the Stanford spirit.”

Originally posted 2023-10-03 04:14:39.