Dance team prepares for the bright lights of competition season

January 26, 2023 — by Michelle Wan
Saratoga Dancers strike a pose during their pom routine.
The team anticipates obstacles in their competition season after recovering from a rough couple of years.

With the new semester in full swing, the dance team has transitioned into its competition season, a time when they attend local contests across the Bay Area and then head to Nationals in Anaheim. 

In the past few years, the team has struggled with a lack of leadership and choreography due to difficulties finding consistent coaching, placing their captains and dancers under tremendous stress while preparing for competitions. The current senior captains Kiana Compeau, Risha Desai and Avani Gupta have worked alongside the team’s first-year coach, Namaad Jackson, in an attempt to achieve better results this season. 

The dance competition season started in January and extends through late March. The team expects to compete in four regional competitions taking place at Valley Christian, Homestead, Monta Vista and Cupertino. They compete in a total of five dances consisting of one pom, one jazz, one lyrical and two hip-hop dances, along with three solo dances performed by the captains. 

The team took a major hit in 2021 when former coach Maleia Fernandez had to quit due to pregnancy, leaving the team without a coach or proper dance routines to compete for the 2022 competition season. With their year-round practices and occasional guests to help refine dances, the team managed to place in some divisions during regional competitions and won in the Lyrical Division during Nationals.

Though the team regained a coach with the hiring of Jackson in 2022, preparation for the season has not been the smoothest. Through the many difficulties of the past three years, dancers have found it difficult to adjust to the constant changes in team dynamic, especially with a new coach. 

“His coaching styles are different from what the team is used to and progress has been slow since none of the dances are finished or cleaned,” junior Erika Andersson said. “Connecting with friends has also been difficult because of drama during the year and increasing stress levels. We just need to reconcile as one team in order to perform our best.” 

The shift in leadership left the team feeling anxious about their incomplete dances, causing competition to reel in even more added stress, according to Andersson.

In turn, the captains worked hard with the team in an attempt to clean and perfect their dances by reviewing each step of every dance little by little — an excruciatingly tedious process. Desai described her frustration with their lack of preparation, which reduced the confidence level of all participants. 

“We wasted a lot of time during the summer when we should’ve been learning competition dances, and now we’re incredibly behind,” Desai said. Desai noted the multiple absences Jackson has due to his second job and other circumstances, placing more pressure on all dancers to perform at their best on their own. 

Despite these obstacles, the dancers have persevered. They utilize every practice leading up to these competitions by drilling, reviewing and cleaning dances the best they can. The team communicates with their coach and advisers about major concerns they have with the dances in order to maximize their performance and chances of winning.

The dancers hope to place in a few of their dances, knowing that their competition with the neighboring schools will be difficult.

“Although none of us enjoyed our competition routines this year, the one thing that has kept us going is the bond and pride we have for every single girl on the team,” Gupta said. “Our team huddles before each dance reminds us why we dance together, no matter what.” 

January 21st – Valley Christian High 

January 28th – Homestead 

February 11th – Monta Vista 

February 25th – Cupertino 

March 16th-20th – Nationals

Tags: dance
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