Dance team competes at Nationals in Anaheim

April 23, 2024 — by Shirina Cao and Jessica Li
Sophomore May Gendeh performs the small lyrical routine at the United Spirit Association Nationals Competition on March 22.
Although the dance team did not place top three for any of their dances, team traditions helped keep the weekend fun.

The school’s dance team is already holding tryouts for next year over the week of April 22-26, but the veterans will have strong memories from the season and their performance at the annual United Spirit Association Nationals Competition hosted in Anaheim from March 22-24.

Before the United Spirit Association (USA) Nationals Competition, the team competed in four regional competitions, one of which — typically the last one — determined their qualification in the “Open” or “Championship” division. A routine that receives an average score of 85 points or greater will qualify for the “Championship” division at Dance Nationals, and a routine that scores 84.9 or lower will compete in the “Open” division.

During the regional competitions, judges provided crucial feedback that the team used to perfect their routines and boost their score before their qualifying competition on Feb. 17. The team attended the National competition with all four of their routines — pom, jazz, hip hop and lyrical — in the “Open” division. 

The team utilized practices to ensure their dances were in top-notch condition. For senior captain Annalyn Bui, the key to performing well at Nationals was putting in hard work earlier on in the season and spending the time closer to the competition perfecting and cleaning up the routines.

“During practices before nationals, we drilled the dances over and over to build stamina and muscle memory,” Bui said. “Before we went on the trip, there was a lot more stress, but once we got to Anaheim, a lot of the stress was relieved and we knew we’re going to do the best we could.”

While the team worked diligently to solidify their routine, they were disappointed in the results of Nationals this year, as they were unable to place with any of their dances. This was a setback from the previous year, where  the team was able to place third in pom — a style involving sharp placements and pompoms — and sixth in jazz.

“Last year, it was pretty hectic, especially due to our coach leaving, but this year, we had a reliable coach and our practices were pretty consistent, so we felt we had a good chance,” sophomore May Gendeh said. “With our hopes so high, it was much more crushing. It felt like all the hard work of the past year was for nothing.”

While veteran members of the team have attended Nationals every year, it was a brand new experience for the five freshmen who just joined the team. As opposed to the gym floors used when performing at regional competitions, Nationals require the team to perform on an arena floor at the Anaheim Convention Center. The arena has bright lights pointed at the stage, and a large area of audience seating.

“Having the difference in lighting and audience spacing makes the stage feel more like a studio competition,” freshman Hannah Hwang said. “Compared to when we just compete on a gym floor, the arena makes me feel like the performance is more serious, and gets me more in the zone of performing.”

To promote team bonding, team members were assigned roommates randomly, which allowed for close interactions between different people. The team annually travels to Disneyland after the local competition season as a reward for a year of hard work and dedication.

“Spending time at Disneyland helped me get closer with my team members,” Hwang said. “When we normally don’t see each other outside of dance practices, going on rides and chatting while waiting in lines allows for connections in a whole different way.”

Another yearly tradition is “roommate dress up” where each room chooses a theme to dress up as during the trip and competes against the other rooms for a prize.

The winning room — consisting of freshman Cathy Yaung, sophomore Camille Cordona and junior Anisa Taymuree — chose the “Smurfs” as their theme. The trio went all out, even going as far as to paint their bodies blue. Yaung remarks that the dress up was a “super fun” moment with all her teammates after seeing their astounded reactions to the theme.

“While the paint was a little uncomfortable after a while, it was worth it to see everyone’s reactions. We also walked down to the lobby and many kids wanted to take pictures with us,” Yaung said.

While underclassmen and juniors will return to the competition next March, Nationals is bittersweet for the seniors, as they had a whirlwind of four years on the team, experiencing the pandemic and many coaching changes. 

“While this year wasn’t exactly how I pictured it, I wouldn’t have traded it for a thing,” senior captain Taylor Chu said. “Through my years on the team, I have met so many talented dancers who are also amazing people. I will miss everyone so much. It was fun spending time with the team for one last time.”

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