Dance team transitions from football half time performances to competition season

November 20, 2023 — by Shirina Cao and Jessica Li
Photo by Anika Kapasi
The dance team members Anisa Taymuree and Annalyn Bui hold their ending pose for their Oct. 20 football game halftime performance.
This year, the dance team hired numerous outside choreographers for their choreographing process.

Senior dance team captain Annalyn Bui beamed with pride as she walked down the football field during the senior night football game on Oct. 22, her arms linked within her parents’ arms. 

From the corner of her eyes, she could see the tear-stained faces of her teammates junior co-captain Saejal Thomas and freshman Chloe Nguyen, cheering her on from the stands. After more than three years on the team, it was finally Bui’s turn to be a senior walking down the field. For her and her fellow seniors Erika Andersson, Taylor Chu and Michelle Wan, the night marked their bittersweet final football game performance with the dance team.

“Senior night was very memorable and I really appreciate everything about the team,” Bui said. “After four years of us seniors putting in the effort for [the seniors that came before us], it felt so special that everyone put in the same effort to make senior night wonderful for us this year.” 

Senior night concluded the dance team’s football halftime performances. The team, under the guidance of coach Toni Strout, is now vigorously readying their routines for the upcoming competition season of January through March.

The team plans to compete in three dances, each in different styles: hip-hop, pom and jazz. Additionally, six of the 14 dancers, chosen through an audition, will participate in a small group lyrical dance.

This year, the dance team’s choreographing process has undergone a huge change for the competition season: hiring different outside choreographers for every routine. In the past, previous coach Namaad Jackson was responsible for choreographing nearly all of their competition routines.

“Having different choreographers for each dance is great because they are each specialized in a specific dance field,” sophomore May Gendeh said. “If one person was to do it all, the quality of some styles wouldn’t be as good, because their time and energy would be scattered to focus on everything [at once].”

The addition of outside choreography early on in the year has prepared the team for the rest of the season. Thomas feels more confident going into competitions this year, knowing that the team already has a solid starting point.

“I feel that a really big thing we were lacking last year is that we didn’t have a foundation until January, which is when the season starts,” Thomas said. “So knowing that it’s only November and our choreography is almost all set makes it way easier to continue on in the season.” Thomas said.

With their first competition on Jan. 20 at Valley Christian High School, leaders on the team have begun guiding the five freshmen into a more serious and driven competition mindset. In addition, practices that usually consisted of recreationally learning new dances every week have gradually slowed down, and the team is instead spending more time on fine-tuning their competition routines to perfection. Frequency of practices will increase after the competitions start; Wednesday and Sunday practices now take place as needed.

“The biggest thing is just bringing everyone together as a team and reinforcing that we’re all in this together,” Thomas said. “We try to make sure that we’re all putting in the same amount of effort. We’ve also been running our competition dances from memory, building stamina and going back to the basics to set us up for the intense part of competition season.”

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