When I walked into the dance room to write this article for the Raptor Run Down, I was honestly a little nervous. I have been dancing ballet since I was four, and I have danced in pointe shoes since I was 13. However, the world of high school drill teams was completely foreign to me. I had not taken a jazz or hip hop class since middle school, and I didn’t even know what type of dance the drill team would focus on. That is, until a few weeks ago.
In addition to feeling out of my element with the type of dance, I knew only two dancers on the team. I had seen the dance team at pep rallies before, but my knowledge about the team was otherwise very limited.
The moment I stepped into the dance room after school on Thursday, March 3, my apprehension disappeared. Ms. Edwards, the dance director, introduced me to two dance newbies, Lilah Bounds and Violet Mann. As more dancers filed into the room, they chatted with each other about school and passed around brownies and Sour Patch Kids. While the team laughed about inside jokes or asked about each other’s weekends, I could tell the team was a close group.
We started practice by gathering as a team in a circle on the floor to discuss the team’s goal for practice that day. Edwards explained that the team’s spring show, which showcases dances for members’ friends and family, was coming up on April 29. To be prepared for the show, Edwards hoped to finish choreographing two dances: one for the newbies on the team and one for the veteran members who had at least one year of experience on the team. After that, Edwards asked who wanted to lead the group warm-up and the rest of practice.
We started with group cardio exercises led by the captains of the team to get warmed up. We did jumping jacks, high knees, and kicks. Then we moved into stretching with lunges and splits. Thankfully, I had a lot of practice with flexibility in ballet, so the splits were not a problem for me, but I was impressed with the team’s flexibility and coordination.
Next, we split into groups to finish choreographing dances. The 10 newbies were working on a jazz dance to “New Moon Rising” by Wolf Mother, and the five veteran dancers were working on a contemporary dance to “Earth” by Sleeping at Last. I practiced with the newbies, and we got right to work finalizing choreography for the last 30 seconds of the dance.
Freshman Lilah Bounds started playing music off of the dance room speakers, and the team marked, or practiced, the dance. Once the team got to the empty space in the music, they started collaborating on choreography. I was impressed that the choreography was made entirely by students. When I took dance classes in middle school, all of our choreography was created by teachers or guest choreographers, so it was neat to see the leadership and creativity that students showed, even when the dancers had not even completed a year with the team.
The newbies broke down the choreography into sections and started throwing out ideas. We listened to a section of the music, and anyone was allowed to suggest choreography. The dance team was even open to some of my ideas for the piece. Next, we practiced the dance multiple times with the new choreography to make sure everyone understood the tempo and exact arm positions. Admittedly, I found it hard to remember nearly 50 steps in the dance each with different timing and positions, but it was clear the team had practiced diligently to perfect the piece. The team also tried challenging steps like calypso jumps, which is a turning dance leap, and double pirouettes, a type of turn on one leg. After nearly 30 minutes, we finished less than one minute of the dance, but the attention to detail paid off.
To my dismay, practice ended soon, and I had to say goodbye to the team members. Despite my initial apprehension about what the team would be like, I was impressed by the students’ leadership in choreography and dance skills. And after seeing the team’s comradery from homemade brownies to the laughter during warm-ups to compliments on dance steps that they extended to me, I was glad to have had the chance to practice and share this experience with them.