The DeForest Area High School Dance Team is competing in the state championship, capping an disjointed year for a group dedicated to choreography.
The team is back to practicing and performing together, but it has been a long road to get this far.
“Right before Spring Break the girls recorded a routine that will be shown virtually on April 25,” said Coach Suellen Kurt.
The team qualified for the regional competition in Sparta, where the team competed in the “kick” and “pom” categories. Both routines were recorded and will be streamed, with awards being announced later that day.
“There were no facilities that were open and they practiced virtually for months before we were able to get together,” said Kurt, “so they weren’t able to start in-person practices until January.”
Their first competition was on March 9, and their regional competition was in person on March 20. Whereas in an ordinary year, the regional competition would involve all the teams hanging out in a school all day, meeting one another and watching each others’ routines, due to COVID precautions, the process was strictly streamlined.
The team would be taken to a warm up area, then perform, change into their next costumes, warm up again, perform, and then back to the bus to go straight home. At the end, DeForest was named Division 2 kick champions and took second place in poms.
The process started with getting their routines in October and then trying to figure out a way to all work together from their own homes, according to senior team captain Alessia.
“From a captain’s perspective, it was really difficult to make sure the girls were doing the warm ups and doing the workout that we had provided for us,” the she said. “It was kind of difficult sending videos out not knowing if people were going to practice or not.”
In addition to challenges in planning things virtually, there were occasional problems of WIFI cutting out or glitching during practice. There was also the loss of the energy of the girls being together throughout, according to senior Belle.
“We definitely didn’t bond like we normally get to do in person, because normally we would get to do fun games in person,” said Belle. “But we didn’t get to do that this year. But I definitely feel like now that we’ve been able to do it in person we’ve grown closer.”
Morale was a concern for Kurt, but it is different now that they are back together.
“It was tough because I could see in their eyes how hard it was for them,” said Kurt. “And now being back, I’ve seen the giggling, the laughing, the talking with each other, the team bonding that normally happens.”
In an ordinary year, by this time, they would have been working together in fundraisers, going to dance camp, performing at basketball games and football games.
The dance team is performing again, first appearing for a March 26 football game.
One benefit of wearing masks during competition was that their mouths were concealed. The girls were able to cheer each other mid-performance amid the strangely sterile competition environment.
But now, as senior Ari explained, they get to work with the energy of a live audience.
“There is more adrenaline when there is an audience, but we’ve worked out that even when it’s just us, talking to your teammates while you’re doing it...we just try to keep up the energy,” said Ari. “But it is a lot easier when there are people watching.”