New coach has high hopes for dance team’s second season

Photo by Simi Srivastava

The SHS dance team performs at the football game on Sept. 5. 

September 16, 2014 — by Emily Chen and Eileen Toh

When eight energetic girls dressed in white tanks and dark sweatpants took the floor, students immediately set aside their “Go home freshmen” chants  at the first rally on Sept. 5 to cheer them on.

Students came away from the performance impressed by their tremendous growth from last season.

The team’s current coach is Studio 10 dance teacher Kaitlyn Landeza, who has been dancing for over 20 years and was on her high school dance team at Presentation High School. She decided to coach the girls last April and held tryouts for 2014-15 season.

“There is nothing more rewarding than getting to teach a group of girls that share the same passion as I have,” Landeza said. “Dancers have an automatic bond [because] we share the same obsession. [Dance] is an art form; it expresses emotion through movement that cannot be expressed through words.”

Last year, the dance team struggled throughout its first season because of their difficulty in finding a permanent coach. Their first coach Dinisha Nichols started instructing the team in June 2013, until around Homecoming week when she quit due to personal issues.

A second coach, Brittani Sua, stepped in to finish the team’s routine in time for the Homecoming game and stayed with the team throughout competition season, leaving them after they placed fourth in the small hip-hop division at the NorCal State Dance Championships on Feb. 8.

After Sua quit, co-captains Madison Seagraves and Joy Tang took charge in leading the team.

Other members of the team include freshman Isabel Lin, sophomores Chih-Hsuan Hsu and Caroline Li and seniors Allison Chan, Carmine Drohan and Nadia Younes.

With Landeza by their side, the girls were able to improve drastically over the summer and bond at a Universal Dance Association (UDA) summer camp at UC Davis. At the four-day camp, they each learned three different hip-hop, jazz and pom — dancing with pom-poms — routines and performed them on the last day.

“[Landeza] takes the time to really help each and every one of us,” Seagraves said. “She makes sure that our dances look flawless before we perform, even if that means scheduling extra practices or staying late for practices.”

Landeza hired multiple choreographers for all of the team’s competition dances. The choreographers are paid by the school, and however much the cost is in total, the girls are planning to fundraise to repay the cost.

“It gives the girls a great experience to learn not only from me, but also from different choreographers,” Landeza said. “All the choreographers I brought in loved working with the team and they are excited to come watch [them] at competitions.”

This year, the team will enter more competitions in the lyrical, hip-hop and jazz categories against teams from other high schools in the Bay Area such as Monta Vista and Homestead High School. Competitions are sponsored by the United Spirit Association (USA).

The team also plans to go to USA Nationals in Anaheim in March 2015. At Nationals, there are two divisions: Championship Division and Open Division. Teams must score at least an 88 in state competitions in order to qualify for the Championship Division, while participants with any score below will place a spot in Open Division.

“Anyone can get into the Open [Division] at Nationals, but [we] really hope to qualify for the Championship [Division],” Li said. “I definitely think that [we are] capable of making it into Championships.”

According to Landeza, the girls will be taking all their routines that they learned from the choreographers that were brought into the studio the past summer and will be competing in the jazz, lyrical and hip-hop categories. Seagraves and Tang will also each compete in solos and together in a duet.

Practices are also longer and more rigorous than those of last season. The girls now dance three days a week for at least two and a half hours.

“Not every practice is easy, but the girls have been working hard and I am so proud of them [for that],” Landeza said.

Dancers expect the year to be busy and fulfilling.

“I hope that this season, we will reach new heights as a team, and that we will inspire other students to try out for the team next year,” Tang said. “For those who are wondering, the dance team does not discriminate by gender.”

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