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    Dance wins national title


    Senior Victoria Senderzon suits up as she prepares for the final routine. She eyes her team around her, everyone teeming with nerves as they wait for their turn to go. The applause from the last dance team’s performance ends, signaling that she will go on soon. The team steps out into the bright lights, and suddenly, the nerves are gone, and only smiles and confidence emerge from behind the curtains.

    The dance team recently won nationals to finish off their competition season. The team trained beginning in October and honed in on a genre early. Senderzon said this year’s training focused more on team sessions compared to past years.

    “We have a lot more precision now and we know what to work on,” Senderzon said. “It’s mostly just getting everyone together doing the same moves at the same time, which made a big difference. Everyone has their own way of doing things, but once we drilled it as a team, it looked a lot better.”

    Senior captain Theresa Hart said the team was nervous during the awards ceremony, but elated when they found out they had won first place. 

    “The second-place teams were announced to be teams that we had consistently beat before,” Hart said. “We have this superstition where we all knocked on wood, and when they read out our name we all stared at each other with our mouths agape. Then, there was a lot of screaming, and we had a couple of us run and grab the banner and the trophy.”

    The team participated in multiple local competitions including a regional tournament in order to qualify for nations. Once they did, they competed against other teams within their size and style section.

    “We do five local competitions, and we qualify to nationals through regionals,” Senderzon said. “Each category is divided by style and size, and we won first place in small hip-hop against eight or nine other teams.”

    Head Coach Alanna Williamson said deciding on a genre was easier this year, as she realized pretty quickly that small hip hop would cater best to the skill and chemistry of the team. 

    “Sometimes people are stronger at more technical dancing rooted in ballet skills like jazz or lyrical,” Williamson said. “But this year, a lot of the dancers were really good at hip-hop. And last year, the people who I knew would be returning had talked about really wanting to do that style. So it felt like a good fit for us because they were going to have fun, and I knew that it would make sense for their skill levels as well.”

    Williamson also said the team’s strong chemistry helped its success and that this was especially notable when traveling for competitions. 

    “Since we have been working so hard for so many months and put in so many hours together, they are really well bonded,” Williamson said. “The way that I can tell when a team has good chemistry is when I know that I can pair anybody up and they’re going to not only behave but have a good time together. On car rides, if we were out to dinner or when I had to pick their rooming assignments for nationals, I wasn’t worried because they’re just so great.”

    The dance team last won Nationals eight years ago before Williamson became head coach. Williamson, who was the assistant coach at the time, said the biggest advantage the team had at that time was individual expertise.

    “The win that year had more to do with the raw talent of the girls on the team,” Williamson said. “It was only a group of five girls on the team that were in the piece (that won)”. 

    Williamson said this year’s win felt more validating as she saw the dancers progress both individually and as a team throughout the season.

    “It’s been a lot of rebuilding in terms of culture and commitment and just fostering the type of people we wanted on the team that want to work hard,” Williamson said. “This year feels a lot more well deserved and validating because it’s the whole team that won first place, not just a small group of a few girls.”

    Hart said many of the seniors plan to continue competing, whether in college or outside of school.

    “It really depends on the school each of us go to,” Hart said. “There’s a lot of talk about doing club because it’s way less time-consuming than the school teams, but I think most, if not all, of the seniors plan to continue to dance in the future.”

    Hart also said she is excited for the future of Paly’s team, even though the competition squad was senior-heavy.

    “The competition team is eight girls, four of which are seniors,” Hart said. “But the other four are planning to continue, and we’ve been having a lot of open practices. I think the team is in good hands, and I trust the next season will go smoothly.”

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