Dance team: veterans look back on four year journey

September 26, 2016 — by Caitlin Ju and Alexandra Li
Photo by Isabelle Yang

Dancer perform at the first rally of the year in August.

Senior captains Hsu and Li have also witnessed the team grow from the “disaster” Li said their freshman year was. After their second coach quit in March that year and no adequate replacement could be found, the dancers coached themselves until the end of the year.

On Feb. 8, 2014, the six dancers of the school’s newly recreated dance team performed their brand new hip-hop routine on the Bella Vista High School gym floors for their first competition as a team, having learned the routine the day before.

Current senior co-captains Chih-Hsuan Hsu and Caroline Li, the first four-year veterans on the dance team, joined the dance team during their freshman year.

Their experience proved difficult and at times frustrating, they said, due to constant coaching changes and no competition experience, as the dance team had previously been discontinued in 2008 due to it merging with the cheer team.

Li, who stopped dancing at Pacific Ballet Academy because of the time commitment right before her freshman year began, found the team a perfect way to continue dancing. As for Hsu, after concentrating in classical dance and ballet at her studio since she was 5, she wanted to try Western dance and thought the team would be a “nice way to integrate [herself] into the school with the sport.”

“I can easily say it’s the most time-consuming activity I have right now,” said Hsu, a captain for the team. “I continued it because it’s a great way for me to expand repertoire and my leadership skills as well as find my family on campus.”

Li agreed that the dance team challenged her by adding to her workload, especially with the numerous Saturday practices. Being on the team not only forced her to manage her time better, but also helped her become more outgoing.

I learned how to be a leader because in freshman year, I was very shy,” Li said. “I’d never thought I’d be where I am today, leading a group of 11 girls. Dance team really pushed me to my limit.”

Sophomore Chloe Peng, now in her second year on the team, sees Hsu and Li as highly responsible leaders who seek to constantly improve themselves and the team.

“They always know what to do. They really push themselves more because they’re our examples, so we follow what they do,” Peng said. “After they leave, it’s going to be a big loss because they’re the main binders of the team.”

Hsu and Li have also witnessed the team grow from the “disaster” Li said their freshman year was. After their second coach quit in March that year and no adequate replacement could be found, the dancers coached themselves until the end of the year.

The current coach, Kaitlyn Landeza, was hired at the beginning of Hsu and Li’s sophomore year, and the team gradually grew in campus presence.

“We’ve definitely become more experienced, and we’re a lot more respected now at school, so it’s nice to see our friends supporting us rather than be unknown [to them],” Hsu said.

Li remembers her favorite moment at USA Nationals on March 2015 in Anaheim when their team was called for the second place trophy in the X-Small Lyrical Dance category. This was a sharp contrast to their first competition in 2014, when Hsu and Li recall their music suddenly skipping a few beats and coming to an abrupt halt. Hsu, Li and the other four dancers froze along with the music, standing like deer in the headlights. Without preparation for a situation like this, the dancers could only walk off the stage in defeat.

“When we went up to get our trophy [for Nationals], it was a moment when we realized that all our hard work paid off and it made it all seem worth it,” Li said.

Like most dance team members, Hsu and Li have transferred their skills to choreographing Homecoming dances. Hsu, who leads this year’s K-pop dance, believes it has increased her confidence, and Li, who has always led the All Girls’ Dance, agrees that Homecoming has opened new experiences and friendships.

As captains, they have similar goals, as Hsu hopes that they are able to place in every dance. She adds her hope is for the dancers to “grow more as people,” and not just in their dancing.

Li also adds how she hopes the team places high to prove how hard they’ve worked and feels confident in all their routines.

“[I want us] not only to give [every competition] our best, but I want the entire team to be really satisfied with our results. I don’t want anyone to regret joining dance team,” Li said.

Though Hsu and Li are as of now unsure of how they will continue dance in college, they realize how important the dance team has been to their high school and overall dance experience.

“I found different styles of dance that I just loved, and it made me love dancing more than before,” Li said. “I’m going to miss this close-knit group of family that I have with 11 other girls that I feel like no other team has.”