Sophomore Keira Mok performs her routine at Nationals. “Even though we struggled a little bit with placements at our regional tournaments and local ones, we ended up doing really well at Nationals,” senior Rachel Ho said.
Dance wins first place at Nationals
PALY DANCE TEAM/USED WITH PERMISSION
Sophomore Keira Mok performs her routine at Nationals. “Even though we struggled a little bit with placements at our regional tournaments and local ones, we ended up doing really well at Nationals,” senior Rachel Ho said.

Dance wins first place at Nationals

Team stayed strong after challenging season, places first in Open Small Hip Hop for the second year in a row

For the second year in a row, the dance team placed first in the Open Small Hip Hop category at USA Nationals on March 23.

Senior and captain Rachel Ho said despite a tough start to the season, the team remained motivated and worked hard.

“We really never gave up, and I think that’s why we were able to succeed at Nationals,” Ho said. “Even though we struggled a little bit with placements at our regional competitions and local ones, we ended up doing really well at Nationals because we just kept working.”

Head Coach Alanna Williamson said the team starts training in the summer to work together in a piece without a mismatch of skills. Then, she said they start learning their competition routines in the fall, before fine-tuning it and competing locally in January.

“We do local competitions that give us feedback on how we did, and hopefully we win something also which is always fun, but really we’re looking for that feedback that will help us at Nationals when we’re trying to get the big wins,” Williamson said.

This year, sophomore Keira Mok said the team focused on embodying specific characters in each dance when performing as a group.

“Dance relies so heavily on each and every person,” Mok said. “Even when we’re sick, and even when we’re super tired, we’re still pushing ourselves to do this for each other because we’re not just dancing for ourselves to win, but also each other.”

Junior Melanie Bonilla said the consistent practice of routines, after initially learning the choreography in September, allowed team members to hone in on their facial expressions and energy on stage, which she thinks set their team apart.

“Our whole team had really good facials that matched the feeling of each song and went really well with the dance,” Bonilla said. “No matter who the judges were looking at, there was always a really strong performance.”

Ho also said the team would constantly give each other feedback during practice to keep the routine clean –– a large part of the scoring component.

“That can sometimes go really wrong if people take it really personally or they feel like the other person’s trying to be mean about it,” Ho said. “But our team is so kind to each other and really cohesive and everyone knows that all we’re trying to do is help each other improve as dancers, and so I think that having our strong teamwork helped us really help each other improve.”

Williamson said she is extremely proud of the team and winning Nationals is a testament to how hard everyone worked.

“I was screaming so loud and they were all crying, and it really validated all that hard work we put in this year,” Williamson said. “All of that training and stuff, and especially the day before that for our practice, paid off. So that’s been really positive and it feels really good to have come home and have that win to say, ‘We did it.’”

Williamson said going to Nationals was a fun and inspiring experience because they were exposed to a new group of highly-skilled dancers, and USA competitions have a friendly atmosphere.

“Studio competitions can often feel overly competitive against the other studios,” Williamson said. “You’re not really encouraged to be friends or be super cozy with each other at competitions. But at the ones that are for schools, everybody wants each other to win even though you also want yourself to win. So when we watched NorCal teams compete in the finals, we all sat on the floor in front of them and held up signs, and that was really fun.”

Earlier in the season, Ho said the upperclassmen had to help prepare the newer dancers well for the stressful competitions.

“Everyone spent a lot of time outside of practice drilling the parts that needed to be worked on, and it showed in how clean everyone looked in the routine,” Ho said.

Bonilla said multiple people got injured or missed practices due to sickness throughout the season, which caused a few setbacks.

“We would change the dance, and then someone would have missed that day and have to catch up with the changes on the new day as they’re making more changes,” Bonilla said. “Having a busy practice and catching up with it was one of our main challenges.”

Despite these difficulties, Ho said winning Nationals last year inspired the team to set high goals this year and believe in themselves after the hard work, time and passion they put into the sport.

“Winning the backpacks and first place last year showed us how we could actually achieve that goal, and so coming into this year I felt, as the captain, there was a bit more pressure on me to continue the legacy and get us motivated,” Ho said. “And I’m so happy that we were able to (do) that.”

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