USC is going to win. Hannah Shaw is sure of it. The Song Girls captain is so confident that she intends to go up to a counterpart on the UCLA dance team before the rivalry game and issue a challenge.
“I’ll say, ‘Get ready, game on,’ ” Hannah said. “ ‘May the best Shaw win.’ ”
UCLA is going to win. Lauren Shaw is sure of it. The Bruins dance team member is so confident that she won’t back down when approached by that familiar face in the pleated skirt, white sweater and red shoes.
“I’ll probably just be like, ‘See you on the field,’ ” Lauren said. “ ‘Good luck, you’re going to need it.’ ”
If fans notice the exchange Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum, they need not worry about a crosstown kerfuffle between the Trojan and the Bruin.
They’re first cousins.
Any verbal jabs will have an undercurrent of affection between the lifelong friends who danced together long before one started waving blue-and-gold pompoms and the other slipped on that instantly recognizable cardinal-and-gold outfit.
A year younger than her cousin, Lauren once choreographed one of Hannah’s middle school dance routines inside a garage. They performed together while attending the same Orange County dance studio and put on impromptu showcases in the living room during family holiday gatherings, complete with tutus and tiaras.
“We’d do little partner dances,” recalled Hannah, whose father is Lauren’s father’s brother, “or one person would flip over the other person’s back.”
Hannah wanted to be a Song Girl since she was in the fifth grade, when a performance by the iconic spirit squad at a family friend’s reception left her breathless. She fulfilled her desire after picking USC, in part, because her mom attended graduate school there.
When Lauren got off the wait list at UCLA and decided to shun her acceptance from New York University to become a Bruin, it delighted Joy Shaw, her grandmother and the family matriarch who graduated from UCLA in 1961 with a degree in elementary education.
Hannah’s reaction was equally predictable.
“I wasn’t thrilled, you know?” she said with a laugh.
Lauren always envisioned herself performing in other areas of dance besides spirit squads, possibly joining a European dance troupe or making music videos in Los Angeles. Her outlook changed as soon as she went to her first football game at the Rose Bowl and saw the Bruins’ spirit squad.
“I went to my roommate,” Lauren said, “and we were like, we’re totally doing that next year.”
This will be the only time the cousins will perform on the football field together while in college. Last season, Lauren’s first on the UCLA dance team, the rivals’ squads were barred from the game at the Rose Bowl because of COVID-19.
Hannah, a senior in the Marshall School of Business, has hoarded recent bragging rights over Lauren, a junior dance major. USC has won the last two football games involving the schools and has prevailed in four consecutive men’s basketball games, including two buzzer-beaters.
The older cousin isn’t one to excessively rub it in, with Joy Shaw describing Hannah as the nurturing type, while Lauren is more of a free spirit. Hannah did recently mention to Grammie Joy remembering that Lauren had worn a USC T-shirt in an old piemaking video they had uploaded to YouTube. Hannah has also shipped enough red and yellow balloons to Lauren’s residence this week to fill up a room.
“Just trying to show her who runs this town,” Hannah cracked.
During the summer, the cousins thought it would be fun to wear their uniforms for a photo shoot on each other’s campus at prominent spots such as the Tommy Trojan and Bruin Bear statues. Lauren covered up in sweatpants and a hoodie for the trip to USC, revealing her school colors only at the last moment.
Said Lauren: “Oh my God, the fear of going to USC in my UCLA dance uniform was terrifying.”
Said Hannah of going to UCLA’s campus: “I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be here.’”
The hope is that Saturday isn’t the last time Hannah and Lauren share a field; they eventually want to dance together for an NFL or NBA team, where their allegiances would no longer be split.
“I’ll never cheer for UCLA, sure,” Hannah said, “but I’ll always cheer for Lauren and always be her No. 1 fan.”
The same goes for Lauren, the rare instance in which a Bruin and a Trojan agree.