Dance team continues practice despite COVID-19 regulations and heat wave

August 27, 2020 — by Audrey Mah

Music blared in front of the cafeteria as eleven members of the dance team — practicing social distancing and garbed in masks — pushed through a full run-through of their new energetic hip-hop routine. After striking their final poses, they quickly dispersed, running away from each other to lift their masks and catch their breaths.

The dance team gathered for its most recent in-person practice on Sunday, Aug. 16, during a recent heatwave. In just four hours, they learned an entire hip-hop piece. 

Everyone was required to wear a mask, making it even more difficult to bear the 104-degree heat. 

Dance coach Maleia Fernandez, who is in her second year of leading the team, said she wanted to keep practices going despite the high temperatures and COVID-19 regulations because she knew that the team would be excited to dance, no matter the conditions. She said she has been proud of the way they have adapted to the tough obstacles.

“I was worried about them getting exhausted, but they all powered through it with lots of water and determination,”  Fernandez said. 

Since last semester’s school closure, the dance team has continued to practice regularly, despite continuously shifting guidelines and locations for these practices.

They began virtual practices in April and held virtual auditions for new members in May. Freshmen Erika Andersson, Annalyn Bui, Taylor Chu, Masha Novoselova and Michelle Wan joined the team for a total of 18 members for the upcoming season.

The athletics department cleared the team to return to campus for socially distanced practices in smaller, rotating cohorts of nine students from late June through the middle of August. Practicing in separate cohorts proved difficult for learning choreography meant for the whole team, but the dancers grew closer as they worked in smaller groups.  

“Since the groups are smaller, I’ve been able to get to know some of the girls better, especially the sophomores,” Fernandez said. “They were so quiet as freshmen last year, but I’m finding them to be a lot more outgoing and really funny.”

After the first week of school, the dance team has reverted  to virtual practices in keeping with district guidelines. Practicing over Zoom has posed some challenges for the team. Junior captain Jordan Shyh said that members all have had to adjust to finding space and flooring at home and navigating technology issues.

Although the new team hasn’t had as much of a chance to bond as they did in previous years, new members still said they feel welcome. The team met once in person in late July for a socially distanced team bonding event during which they played party games and set team goals. 

“It’s not as exciting as I was expecting, but being a part of a team with so many wonderful and talented people makes me feel more comfortable starting high school,” Wan said.

As of now, the dance competition season will follow its ordinary January through March schedule, but there is a possibility that it may be postponed or moved to a virtual format. Alternatively, competitions may go on without an audience.

Still, Shyh believes that all of the challenges that the team has faced have only made them more resilient. 

“It’s easy to take this time as a break, but we don’t,” Shyh said. “This team hasn’t given up, and we haven’t stopped coming to practice and working really hard, no matter what the environment is like.”

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