Walt Disney World has lived up to its motto, ‘Where Dreams Come True’ as the Presentation Dance Team competed in the Contest of Champions Nationals, earning multiple national titles and completing their most successful competition season in Presentation history.
As I approached the security counter at Orlando International Airport, I removed my shoes and placed my electronics, along with my three-foot long trophy, onto the x-ray conveyor belt. This was the first of 12 trophies to travel through TSA as the Presentation Dance Team journeyed back home from our national competition in Orlando, Florida.
But six weeks before we headed across the country, we began our grueling five-hour Saturday practices to prepare for competition season. Each of these practices, beginning in January, are held in the Miller Athletic Complex because we match our formations and floor patterns to the lines on the gym. These practices help us to achieve our goal of dancing as one identical unit, both in spacing and movement.
At the end of January, we debuted our dances at Homestead High Forte Showcase. Although we had been preparing and working hard since June the previous year, there were many nervous jitters as we stepped out on the floor for the first time as a team, many of which were attributed to multiple ailments and injuries ranging from the flu, to concussions, and sprained elbows.
In the end, though, we prevailed as we swept our first competition, placing first in all eight of our dances, including the overall soloist. This had only happened once before at the Bella Vista Regional Competition in 2014. The dance team swept their following four regional competitions, making 2015 one for the record books with our first ever undefeated season.
Based on our tremendous success in California, we were all extremely excited to take our routines to the national level and see if all our hours of Saturday practices would pay off.
My favorite part of the entire trip to Florida was sitting on the stage of the ESPN World Wide of Sports Complex during the awards ceremony. The clock was nearing midnight as all twenty of us sat in a circle, squeezing each other’s hands and praying. As the announcer called one after another the first places we had won, and finally the two national titles, the sheer amazement, pride, and happiness mixed with tears of joy on everyone’s faces was unforgettable to say the least.
Unlike soccer or basketball where the winner of the game is clearly determined by the team with the most points, the ‘winner’ in dance competition is based on both the style as well as the number of people in each routine. Although this form of judging is rather complex, it creates many more categories and opportunities for teams to place. That being said, Presentation Dance now holds the title of best in the nation in both the x-small (5-9 people) and medium (13-20 people) size classifications as well as the Lyrical, Contemporary, and Character divisions. We had the highest average scores in each of these categories, which earned us first place trophies, $2000, and of course fancy new banners and jackets. (See below for complete list of awards won)
At the end of the entire competition, it is a tradition for the judges to select 10 outstanding routines to showcase before the awards ceremony. For the past two years, we had been awarded this honor for our Character and X-Small Contemporary routines. This year, after our last dance, we all changed out of our sweaty costumes and tights and into comfortable sweats before eating dinner.
Sitting back, relaxing in the stadium seats, we all eagerly awaited the judges’ posting of the showcase routines. As the last dance was about to step on stage, there was still no word on the showcase. I will never forget what happened next and I laugh everytime I think about it. Before I knew what was happening, Sara Fugate, our coach, came running from backstage and without breaking a stride yelled out, “Costumes, Say My Name, go go go!”
At the last moment, out of hundreds of routines, the judges had decided on only three to showcase, one of which was our Medium jazz dance to ‘Say My Name.’ Given the odds, not only were we shocked that we were selected, but this happened to be the first time we had ever placed in the Medium jazz category, received a first place and the special showcase selection. Within five minutes, we were in our costumes and ready give the audience the best performance from the bottom of our hearts.
As a member of the dance team for the past four years, I have had the incredible opportunity of watching the program and dancers excel as all the talent, hard work, and dedication has mixed together to create the best season that anyone could have imagined. Of course, on behalf of all of my teammates, a special thank you goes to our wonderful coaches, Sara Fugate and Emily Sprugasci, for all of their love, support, and guidance. I am sad to be leaving such a large part of my high school life behind, but I could not have asked for a more fairy tale ending!
Complete list of awards
-X Small Contemporary: 1st Place, Best in Category, and a Choreography Award
-Lyrical: 1st Place & Best in Category
-Character: 1st Place & Best in Category
-Small Jazz: 1st Place & Choreography Award
-Medium Contemporary: 1st Place
-Small Lyrical: 1st Place
-Hip Hop: 2nd Place
-Medium Jazz: 1st Place & Showcase Performance
-Also, a HUGE congratulations to soloist Lindsey Sandri! Lindsey won 1st Overall for her solo out of all the senior soloists!