Eagerly anticipating the notice of qualification for the USA Varsity Dance Nationals 2019, freshman Riley Herron huddled with members of the varsity dance team awaiting the news.
As they learned that the team would yet again represent Paly at Nationals, the group immediately erupted and vowed to perform to the utmost of their capabilities.
Held at the Anaheim Convention Center, the USA Varsity Dance Nationals 2019 Competition hosted the arrival of almost 2,000 performers, with nearly 4,000 spectators. The event began on March 17 and lasted through March 19, and continues to be the most well-regarded dance competition of its category in the western region of the country.
Varsity coach of four years, Alanna Williamson, has continued to utilize dance in her life for over 23 years.
According to Williamson, although the team did not place as well this year as expected, the overall progress of the team this season has vastly improved, considering that two of the three dances that were performed placed. Also, the cumulative scores of the competition were comparatively much higher than years previous.
“Each year the girls impress me more and more with their work ethic and talent and passion for the athletic art,” Williamson said. “Coaching each year teaches me something new about dance and my students, and it also keeps me so connected to the Paly Vikes spirit. I am really grateful to be able to continue my own training as a dancer through coaching and choreographing. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”
In addition to their ranking at nationals, senior and team captain Abby Cummings takes great pride with the progress of the team throughout the season.
“Speaking for the team as a whole, we were thrilled with how we did at nationals this year. Our scores at nationals were much higher than those at our local and regional competitions, which always feels really great considering how much time and work we out in to make each routine the best it can be.”
According to Herron, the team practices habitually for an hour and 45 minutes daily as of summer. Additional practices that can last the entire duration of the day are also enacted in weeks prior to the competitions. Each year, the team initially begins learning routines in August, and continues to perfect technique up until competition season begins in January.
According to Williamson, another crucial aspect of the preparation for competitions are team bonding exercises.
“In March, especially when we all start to feel a little burnt out, we play games, organize team lunches, and spend a lot of time having fun to balance the incredible amount of hard work they have put in,” Williamson said.
After previously dancing for 11 years outside of school, Herron became a member of the varsity team as a freshman.
“It was really nerve-wracking to go to such a big competition and having so much responsibility in the outcome, especially because we were representing Paly,” Herron said. “There are so many fun and scary experiences from being a part of the varsity team as a freshman. The upperclassmen were so welcoming and nice which made it a lot easier to join the team.” According to Cummings, the team is extremely tight knit as a result of its small nature.
“As a captain of the team, I feel no different than any of the other team members in the sense that there really is no hierarchy regarding officer positions, we are just a really close group of girls,” Cummings said. “Yes, my co-captain and I do a lot more behind the scenes, but our main job is to make sure everyone’s happy and heard throughout the year, whether that’s inside or outside of the dance studio. I definitely spend more of my time with the dance team than I do with any other people, and I couldn’t be more glad that I do.”