A balancing act: Sophomore learns to juggle water polo and dance

November 16, 2023 — by Isabelle Wang
Courtesy of Thalea Charton
Sophomore Thalea Charton dances at Dance Nationals in March 2023.
 Sophomore Thalea Charton alternates between a team sport and individual lessons outside of school.

After the end-of-the-day school bell rang this fall, sophomore Thalea Charton headed to her dance studio to practice for an hour. Then, after an intense session of ballet and other forms of dance, Charton packed her bags and headed to her second sport as a member of the school’s water polo team, where she practiced for another two hours. 

Charton’s history in both sports goes back to early elementary school. She started swimming at age 6 at De Anza Cupertino Aquatics and dancing at age 3 at East West and Dance Academy USA dance studios. 

She began playing water polo for the first time this fall on the girls’ JV team. Starting this winter, she will also be playing for San Jose Express Water Polo.

As a freshman, Charton was on the school’s dance team.

This year, she decided to shift her focus more toward water polo as a team sport, dropping dance at school to practice it recreationally.

“I decided to continue dancing outside of school because it’s a way to relieve emotions,” Charton said. “My favorite part of dance is whenever we do improve because it helps me bring out my creativity.”

Charton found the dance team to be divided into cliques between the upper and lower classmen, making it difficult for the members to bond. 

Additionally, she decided to move on from school dance for its unexpected time commitment.

“It was said there would be some Saturday practices, but it ended up being every single Saturday,” Charton said.

Charton is enjoying dance more now that she isn’t on a team, as the stress and pressure of performing with a group has disappeared.

In contrast to the extra time commitment required for dance, water polo provided a set schedule of two hours after school from Monday to Friday that Charton could follow and know what to expect. While she sometimes spends 10 hours a week in the waters, she also commits to five hours of dance practice each week, or one hour each weekday.

Despite simultaneously participating in two time-consuming pursuits, she said she has found ways to balance schoolwork with sports. Charton also occasionally skips one sport practice for another if they overlap. 

This tight schedule is worth it, however, as the strong leadership from the upperclassmen and connections made in water polo is something Charton looks forward to continuing. 

The varsity girls’ water polo team mostly consisted of upperclassmen, with six seniors leading the team and being role models for younger players. Compared to dance, where Charton found that the wide range of ages led to separations between upperclassmen and lowerclassmen, the water polo seniors’ strong leadership and connections to one another helped the JV and varsity teams become more cohesive and comfortable.

“Water polo involves more team bonding since it is a team sport, so our practices are more team based where we focus on working together,” Charton said.

She found that the comfortable team atmosphere in water polo made the team performance stronger. Additionally, Charton said that practicing dance outside of school also helps her grow stronger for water polo.

Along with its team spirit, Charton said that water polo has a lot more energy and excitement compared to what she experienced with dancing.

“There’s a lot of times this year where we’ve made comebacks,” Charton said. “I think it’s always fun to see people get riled up, and, while they’re not violent, you can see them get angry because they’re so passionate about it.”

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