Making the most of limited practice time, dance team soars through competition season with a positive outlook

February 8, 2024 — by Shirina Cao and Jessica Li
Courtesy of West Coast Elite
Senior Michelle Wan fiercely raises her right arm during the ending pose of the team’s jazz routine during the competition hosted by West Coast Elite at Valley Christian on Jan. 20.
Aiming for improvement after each competition, the team has started to take practices more seriously and pay attention to the little details for success.

Whispering words of encouragement to each other and exchanging quick nods, the 14-member dance team reviewed their choreography and completed last-minute preparations for their first jazz routine at Valley Christian on Jan. 20 before heading out to the large gym to perform. The air was thick with a blend of adrenaline and nerves, intensifying as the start of the competition neared. 

After learning their routines in the first semester, the team has confidently charged into competition season with three full team dances — jazz, hip hop and pom — as well as a lyrical small group with six members. At their first competition hosted by West Coast Elite (WCE) at Valley Christian, the team placed second out of three teams for jazz, third out of six teams for pom, third out of four teams for hip hop and fifth out of seven teams for lyrical. At their second competition hosted by United Spirit Association (USA) on Jan. 27 at Homestead, the team placed second for pom, while the rest of the places were not disclosed, given that only the top half of placements in each category are announced.

Captain Annalyn Bui said that although she is proud of their results so far, the team is still looking to improve throughout the remainder of the season. The team has two final regional competitions on Feb. 10 and Feb. 17 hosted by USA at Lincoln, before nationals in Anaheim from March 22-23.

“We’ve been listening to our judge’s comments after each competition, implementing corrections and making small changes to the dances when we need to,” Bui said. “We run our dances back to back to build stamina and work on being sharp and precise with our movements.”

The short one- to two-week intervals between competitions leaves little time for the dancers to make large changes to choreography and formations, but head coach Toni Strout has made it a priority to strive to improve their scores, no matter how small the difference is in results after each competition.

Although the team holds three 2-hour practices a week, this schedule has significantly fewer practices than in previous years due to conflicts in Strout’s schedule. As a result, the team has been missing the Wednesday and Saturday practices that would have given them an extra boost during competition season.

“With fewer practices, it’s even more crucial to use the time we have wisely,” senior captain Erika Andersson said. “It’s around this time of year that we are harder on ourselves to not slack off. Two hours for four dances is hardly enough time.”

Andersson has noticed how the whole team has started to take practice times more seriously. With Strout’s emphasis on synchronization as a team and stylized movements, the members are glad to have learned the choreography early on in the year so that they have more time to refine the details. 

“All we want is to improve a little each time and keep the whole thing fun for everyone,” Andersson said.

Tags: dance
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