Make Them Feel Like Dancing

The SM West dance team competed at nationals for the first time.


Dance team performs their routine. Photo by Mikaela Kelly-Price.

Sylvia Bryan

The Viking Dance Team recently had the chance to see how they compare to teams from across the country.

“It was the first time we qualified. We had a team with the talent and dedication that we were able to do it this year,”  coach Anne McClain said.

Formerly, dance team went to London every three years with marching band. Starting this year, dance team and color guard are separate entities, and color guard has taken over dance team’s role in marching band routines.  

“We haven’t gone before because we would go to London with the band, and now we’re separate from the band,” senior Annie Rinne said.

Being separate from color guard allowed the team more time and energy to focus on qualifying for the competition.

“If we still had color guard we wouldn’t have been able to qualify,” McClain said.

The vast majority of dance team members went on the trip, junior varsity and freshmen included.

“It was optional, but almost everybody wanted to go,” Rinne said.

The competition took place Feb. 26 through 28 in Orlando, Fla. and was hosted by the National Dance Alliance (NDA.)

NDA was established as a sister company to the National Cheerleaders Association in 1976, and was originally called the NCA Superstar. It was renamed in 1999 to reflect the company’s commitment to the dance aspect of the spirit industry.

A handful of Johnson County schools were represented at the championship. Shawnee Mission, Blue Valley and Olathe each had two schools competing. Olathe North and Northwest, BV Northwest and Southwest and SM East each sent a team to the competition. Not many local schools participate in the championship because most dance teams are still combined with color guard. With the responsibilities of color guard, it can be difficult for a team to have time to prepare for competitions.

To qualify for the competition, the team had to prepare a routine, record themselves performing it and send the recording to the NDA. This was all completed over the summer.

“There’s two ways to qualify, and the way we chose you had to make a video and send it to them. Then they score it and decide whether or not you qualify, and we did,” McClain said.

At the championship, each routine was graded by the same rubric. The categories included choreography, execution of the genre, uniformity and visual effects. Teams were also required to stay within a two minute time limit for most categories and lost points for any rule infractions or major falls during the performance.    

Since it was their first time at a national competition, the Viking Dance Team came in at a disadvantage.

“We’re underdogs because of that because nobody really knows who we are,” Rinne said.

The Viking Dance Team performed three routines in the pom, jazz and hip-hop genres, which each have a distinct style.

“Pom is with pom poms, quick, sharp motions and is more about visual effects than anything else,” McClain said.

On the other hand, jazz routines are dependent on technique.

“It has what we call lyrical and jazz shoved into the same category, and we’re taking a lyrical piece. It’s set to ‘Hold Back the River’ by James Bay. There’s a lot of technique involved,” McClain said.

Finally, hip-hop pieces tend to be fast paced crowd pleasers.

“There’s a lot more tricks and it’s more syncopated. It’s usually one of the crowd favorites to watch,” McClain said.

Participating in the championship provided an opportunity for the team to show off their skills and compare themselves to other schools.

“I’m super excited to be in Florida with all my best friends and see how we measure up,” Rinne said.