The judges announced soloist awards, counting down from 10th place. When they reached the top five and senior Laura Perez still had not been called, she thought to herself, “There’s no way.” Then, the judges called first place, and Perez heard her name.
“When I heard that I got first place I was shocked because of the amount of talent at the competition, [it was unbelievable]” Perez said. “My main goal was just to feel happy about what I performed once I got off the stage and hopefully [make] the audience feel something when I danced.”
From Feb. 1 – 3, the varsity dance team competed in the National Dance Competition at Gaylord Palms against over 100 other teams. For the first time in five years, the team qualified straight to finals with their lyrical routine. Though they did not make it to finals with their pom dance, they still placed 13th in the nation in their division.
To make it straight into finals, the team’s score has to typically be in the top 40 percent. Judges also hold a “second chance round” to give opportunity for up to two additional teams to qualify.
“Many of us were in tears,” senior Maia Kran said. “The whole team was so happy overall because Unleashed had not made it into finals in many years.”
For dancers like Perez, the awards from the competition validated their skills and helped them look toward the future.
“This competition meant a lot to me in particular because it was a Nationals competition,” Perez said. “I was not just competing against other dancers in Florida, but dancers nationwide who have been dancing for as long as I have and who share the same passion and love for dance.”
Perez believes that this experience solidified her plans to major in Dance in college.
Similarly, senior Bryanna Buker plans to minor in Dance at West Virginia University as well as teach dance classes in her free time. She believes that the team work demonstrated in the competition helped her solidify her future plans.
Another soloist, junior Soomin Eum placed fourth for her solo contemporary performance to the song “Dreams” by Nauges.
“Once I got on stage, the support from my friends, family and all the other dancers produced such a positive energy that the nerves were not as present and instead I was so happy and grateful to be able to perform,” Eum said.
Eum also looks to study dance and pre-med in college. Even if she does not pursue dance as her career, she hopes to always have dance in her life.
Though the national competition is a highlight, the Unleashed has had a successful competition season. They placed first for both of their dances at their first competition and ended up tying with their JV team for the highest score.
They will travel to two more competitions in March, including another national competition in Texas over spring break.