The Road to Nationals

How the varsity dance team prepares for the national dance team competition


Juan Wilson

The team poses for a photo with choreographer Shandon Perez

As the Universal Dance Team Association nationals approaches rapidly, the varsity dance team prepares for their hardest year yet. Nationals is the biggest competition that the dance team competes in all season. There will be five girls that will be competing for their first time on the nationals floor, and the team is excited to share the floor with these newcomers for their first experience. Before the dancers hop on a plane to Disney World, they have to first prepare themselves for their toughest competition.

The team starts preparing by learning new routines in the fall. For their hip hop routine, they brought in a new choreographer, Shandon Perez, to help better prepare them for their road to nationals. Shandon Perez is known for choreographing some of the top college dance teams such as the University of Memphis who has won 14 national championships.

“It was special of her coming in because she is such an inspiration in the dance world,” junior Halley Taylor said. “All of her choreography she gives is a challenge but it is 100% worth it.”

Returning jazz choreographer Lauren Neiner has given them a challenging but do-able routine to help them stand out at competitions. In the past years their jazz routines have been more upbeat and energetic. This year, she gave them a unique style to work with to stand out to the judges. These routines will be challenging but overall will help them succeed.

Up next they enter the hardest week of the year: hell week. This week happens in early December before their first competition, the Yvonne Cole Invitational. The girls have a lot of hard work to do to prepare them for their first debut as a team.

“This week is very hard and straining on your body but the bonding as a team makes it an experience you want to be apart of,” sophomore Kate Burnes said.

The team practices from 5-9, Monday-Friday the week of the competition. They work on perfecting their routines as best as they can so they can put their best foot forward at the end of the week.

All of their time and effort they have put in has prepared them for the day of Lindbergh. The day starts with an early wake up call to begin preparations for the long day ahead of them. On the bus ride to the competition the girls play music to hype them up and to mentally prepare them for what is ahead. The team walks into the competition together with their heads held high and their game faces on. Together they are ready to walk onto the floor and give it their all.

“Lindbergh is mostly about coming together as a team and feeling good after coming off the floor,” Burnes said. “Being on the floor is indescribable and amazing to be doing what you love with your friends.”

During the performance, the judges will give the team critiques that they can look back on after they compete. These critiques play a significant role in helping the team to further improve their performances for upcoming competitions.

Once Lindbergh is over, the month of January approaches along with the many hours of practice. This month includes rehearsal almost every day, and on the days they do not practice, each girl is required to submit videos of themselves performing each dance. Also during this month, the coaches help to perfect the routines so that they are completely prepared for the nationals floor.

“For practice I usually come in with a positive attitude and a determined mindset to get stuff done,” Taylor said.

Another key factor for the dance team’s success is performing at basketball games. These games help the team to give them further experience of performing for an audience so that they are prepared for thousands of people to watch them at nationals.

The long awaited nationals has finally arrived as the team boards the plane to Orlando. Even when the team is at nationals they will practice wherever they find space. Every year, the team is always finding space in the parking lot of their hotel and it is one of the most positive practices they have all year.

“Parking lot practice is one of the hardest practices of the year, it is the real deal because it comes to our final practices before we hit the nationals floor” Taylor said. “It helps practicing at nationals because you know this whole moment you have been waiting for since the beginning of the season is finally here so you work your hardest to achieve your goals, the vibe is confident and focused throughout the whole week.”

The time has finally come to step foot on the nationals floor, this is the moment they have been preparing for all year and they are ready to let their hard work pay off. As they walk onto the practice floor they are mentally and physically prepared for the performance of a lifetime. After their eight minutes on the practice floor is done, they head backstage. Soon, they will run on stage and give their all on the biggest stage in the country.