Dance Dance Revolution

The RVDT's bumpy road to victory

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Dance Dance Revolution

The RVDT is posing in their jazz costumes hours before performing at Nationals. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Arnold.

The RVDT is posing in their jazz costumes hours before performing at Nationals. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Arnold.

The RVDT is posing in their jazz costumes hours before performing at Nationals. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Arnold.

The RVDT is posing in their jazz costumes hours before performing at Nationals. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Arnold.

Mariam Hanna, Lifestyles & Entertainment Editor

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At 4 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 1, sophomore Eliza Farrell woke up to her alarm clock blaring. It was the day she and the rest of the Rochester Varsity Dance Team (RVDT) had been waiting for since tryouts back in June- the Dance Team Union National Competition (DTU) in Orlando, Fla. Although Farrell had not gotten a full night of sleep in order to catch her early flight, she was surprisingly energetic and not at all tired. On the car ride to the airport, Farrell could not stop smiling. She was enthusiastic and eager to get on the stage and show all of her team’s hard work after this difficult season.

At the beginning of the season, the RVDT had not been doing as well as they wanted in competitions. They attended multiple local events throughout the school year, but they did not place highly. To add to their struggles, the team did not have an official coach halfway through the season, which was especially stressful for them, since Nationals were just over a month away.

“We still had one regional competition and Nationals left, and we didn’t have a coach,” captain and senior Kaitlyn Arnold said. “We said ‘okay, this is interesting’, and we [had] been placing last at all of our competitions leading up to that point. We hadn’t been doing so well this season.”

Things started to look up for the girls at the beginning of January. With the help of a few others, the dancers were able to get back on their feet and work harder than ever for that Nationals title.

“What ended up happening was my mom stepped up and became our temporary coach just so we could have someone to coach us, just so we could still run as a team,” Arnold said. “And then, there is a mom at my dance studio who choreographs for dance teams, and she has been judging for some of the competitions we had gone to, so she volunteered to help step up and help us re-choreograph some of our dances so we could do better. She got us back on our feet and helped us keep going.”

With the new choreographer’s help, the team was able to re-choreograph and clean up their jazz and pom dances for Nationals.

“She choreographed both of our dances and made it to benefit our strengths,” Farrell said.“Before, it was not even a dance that we should do.”

Another issue the RVDT faced at the beginning of the season was a lack of connection as a team.

“Prior to Christmas Break, we had kind of weird dynamics. We never really fully clicked,” Arnold said. “We all have to be able to work with each other and get past our differences. That really helped us come together as a team.”

Not only did the ladies on the RVDT bond by having to try their hardest to figure out how to work together without a coach, but the extra time they spent practicing also brought them closer.

“It brought all of us together a lot more, and we all got more motivated,” Farrell said. “So all of us decided to put in an extra effort. We became much closer because of the extra practices and everything.”

Only a month after learing their new routines, the team wen to Nationals in Orlando, where they went straight through to finals in both their jazz and their pom dances, making RVDT history. They placed 8th in jazz and 11th in pom.

“This year compared to last year, the competition doubled in size,” Arnold said. “So fourth place last year really could’ve been a 20th place compared to this year’s competition, and the first year, there were probably around a quarter of the teams.”

This surprised the dance team, because unlike other teams and in previous years, they only had a month to prepare for Nationals. The rush to prepare the competition made Farrell nervous.

“You generally start learning your competition dance around the end of July or August,” Farrell said. “Some teams even do it earlier than that, but that’s how you should start practicing.”

Because the RVDT did not have an official coach when they went to Nationals, Principal Neil DeLuca and Assistant Principal Casey Wescott accompanied them to the competition.

“I felt like it was important to have a school representative accompany the dance team to Florida with [Mrs. Arnold] at Nationals,” Mr. DeLuca said. “They needed a school representative- someone who was employed with the school district.”

By attending Nationals and becoming more involved with the RVDT, the administration was able to get to know the dance team and better understand what they do.

“Going with them and seeing them perform and compete, I recognize them as a team,” Mr. DeLuca said. “The value they put into their work and dance is amazing. It’s truly more than an activity. It is a sport, and I appreciate them even more now that I’ve seen them in person.”

Although the principals have always respected the dance team, they were able to understand more about what it really means to be on the RVDT through this experience.

“I think I just always respected dance or cheer or football, baseball, performing arts,” Mr. Wescott said. “…There is a certain craft and an art form in all of it and athleticism to it, that’s for sure. I think this just gave me a little more insight into the nuances and the little pieces or bigger pieces and types of competitions that they have. So, it’s just a nice opportunity to learn more, but I think my level of respect for that they do, similar to other clubs, activities, sports, performing arts, it’s always there.”

Many members of RVDT liked having Mr. DeLuca and Mr. Wescott get more involved with their team.

“It was actually really nice because [Mr. DeLuca] came to practice,” Arnold said. “We were in the cafeteria and he said to my mom ‘Wait, you guys dance in here? This can’t can’t be good for you guys,’ with the floor, because my friend happened to fall right then, and we were like, ‘yeah, you know it’s really not the best…’ So it was just really eye-opening for them for them to come and see things and realize that change does need to be made…”

Mr. Wescott was surprised to see how big the DTU Nationals competition was, and he was able to gain insight into how dance works as a sport.

“It was very exciting to go to Nationals,” Mr. Wescott said. “I was very happy for the young ladies that made it there and worked so hard to get there. It was a great opportunity for them to showcase their talents and showing that all their hard work paid off, so that was kind of the big piece. I was amazed at how big Nationals was and how many other teams were there and the level of competition was very impressive.”

After such a difficult season and a lot of doubt that they would be successful, hearing

“Rochester High School” being called out to go on to the finals for two different dances was an indescribable feeling, according to freshman Chloe Murray.

“When I heard our name as finalists, I was over the top excited,” Murray said. “I knew my family, school, and our rival teams were watching and I wanted to do good so bad. I felt so relieved, we had finally put something out on the floor that we were all proud of.”

Farrell felt overjoyed and excited because her team placed high enough to go to finals, and she also felt relieved that she did not have to go through the second chance round of the DTU Nationals Competition.

“For the Nationals competition, there are multiple rounds,” Farrell said. “First, there are prelims, [and] there are around thirty different teams from around the country that compete, and from those teams, they are split up into two groups: group A and group B… If you were not picked, then you would have to do second chance, which you do not want to do. It’s awful. Second chance [is when] the remaining teams that did not make finals first try to get to go again and compete for two more spots to make it to finals. Then, the teams that are left go to finals and compete again on a separate day.”

Through all the hardships the RVDT has had to overcome, Murray learned a lesson she will take with her through her next few years on the dance team.

“I learned that everything happens for a reason and to love what you do,” Murray said. “The team’s passion for dance helped us reconnect with our goal throughout the season.

Things in life don’t go as expected, but if you treat your losses as lessons, you’re never losing.”

Because the dance team went straight through to finals, they made a deal with Mr. DeLuca and Mr. Wescott to go down whichever waterslide the girls chose.

“My favorite memory was when [Mr. DeLuca] said that if we made it to finals in both competitions, that they would have to go down the waterslide, along with Kaitlyn Arnold’s mom,” Farrell said. “They promised that we would have to go down to the waterpark area of our hotel and they had to do what we wanted. We decided to send them down a trapdoor waterslide that’s very high up, so they all did it, and it was very funny.”

Mr. DeLuca acted like he did not want to go down the waterslide, but he was secretly excited to do it.

“It’s one of the times I think students at Rochester High School get to see that we’re people,” Mr. DeLuca said. “It’s nice for students to say ‘even though they’re our principals, they’re just normal dudes having fun.’”

Although the RVDT faced many challenges throughout their season, they were able to get back up and work harder than ever to do well at Nationals, and it ended up working.

“Doing well at Nationals is an amazing feeling,” Farrell said. “For me, the most special moment at Nationals was when we found out that for both of our dances, we made it straight through to finals. It was the best feeling of my life. I just felt so overwhelmed, so happy, and I couldn’t believe we did it. We just felt so accomplished. Many of us started crying because we were so happy, and so it was such a good feeling.”