Dancing together

A look into the changes to the dance team leading up to the 2018-19 competition season


Gauri Kaushik

From all-day workshops during the summer to six-hour choreography sessions on the weekends to three-hour bus rides to and from competitions, being a member of the MVHS dance team is a year-round commitment. Performing at football games, rallies and their own winter and spring showcases, the team has always looked forward to a busy year.

However, as the team neared the beginning of its competition season in January, its practices pick up their pace as the dancers aim to clean and perfect choreography, audition for spots as soloists and make last-minute changes to routines.

This year, all but two of the team’s routines qualified for USA Nationals — it’s hip hop routine fell three-tenths of a point short of the necessary score, scoring an 84.7. The team is now focusing on practicing the performances that qualified before heading to Anaheim for the competition on March 16.

The season began with the West Coast Elite competition at Valley Christian HS on Jan. 16. According to junior and co-captain Annie Yang, the season started off strong, with the team placing well at its first competition of the year. The judges took into consideration choreography, execution, technique and performance to determine the overall placements.

The team placed second overall at West Coast Elite, with soloist and junior Jana Tsai placing in the top 10. According to coach Dasha Plaza, their high-placing trend continued throughout the competitions, with MVHS, Lincoln HS and Presentation HS often competing for first.

Their successful performance throughout this season was preceded by a number of important changes. Although they have an entirely new dance room to work in and  male dancers on the team for the first time, this is only the second year the team has competed in the hip hop division. Plaza and Annie both agree that the two male dancers have been an asset to the team, adding diversity and a breath of fresh air.

“It’s been a great, different type of energy [this] year because of [them],” Plaza said. “They bring definitely different dynamics to the whole group. [They’ve] been an awesome addition, and I’m so grateful that I took that risk to get boys on the team.”

Junior Alex Yang, one of the two male dancers on the team, noticed that the dance team’s environment this year is quite different from what he had heard about previous years, something that has made this season a great experience for him.

“Apparently a few years ago, last year even, the team was cliquey and not the best environment,” Alex said. “But this year, it’s been great and we’re bonding and having so much fun. It doesn’t matter how we place. We could always go back and do better but as long as we have [a good] attitude and we have fun, that’s all that really matters.”

With the boys, though, the team faces new challenges, such as finding costumes for their new additions. Plaza also believes that she has learnt to be more aware of where and how the boys will fit into the choreography. According to Annie, this means taking into account what their interests are and which routines are best suited for them, meaning the male dancers aren’t in all the routines.

Despite these minor differences, both Annie and Plaza believe that the choreography itself has not been negatively affected due to their presence. Annie points out that both their kick and hip hop routines have similar choreography to last year’s routines, even with male dancers.

The team invites guest choreographers, often from Los Angeles or from Dance Attack, the studio where Plaza teaches, who come in and help choreograph their routines — in fact, one of this year’s choreographers was Quinton Peron, one of the first male cheerleaders for the LA Rams.

Looking back on the dance team’s previous years, Plaza want to make sure that they continue to grow by introducing new choreography and styles. This season she has been aiming to make the team more versatile, thus pushing them to compete in the hip hop category.

“I’m really proud of the team,” Plaza said. “Before, I think there’s been a certain stigma about what the dance team does and how they dance, but I’m trying to break the typical stereotype of a high school dance team dancing.”

Plaza believes that high school teams are often very rigid and rehearsed, as compared to professional dance companies. She hopes to set the MVHS Dance team apart by having them compete in different styles and changing the structure of the team by looking to add more diverse talent.

“I think we’re just going to keep pushing the boundaries and keep inviting and looking for talent that can do both studio life and the dance team at a high school,” Plaza said.