Up in the air


photo by Mat

Senior Julia Johnson leads the cheer on the sidelines.

With no summer tryouts due to COVID, the dance team started behind schedule. Usually, tryouts are in May, and the team practices throughout the summer to prepare for football season. 

“With all of the changes, I definitely feel upset because it has limited us from much that we can do,” senior Faith Hammack said. 

The team has faced changes everywhere, from performances to practices. During practice, all dancers are six feet apart and required to wear face masks. Even warmups have changed as in all other years the dancers would usually help stretch each other before practice. 

“We are more spread out, so we don’t socialize as much, so we actually get done with warmups faster,” junior Kelly Krawczyk said. 

However, COVID has not changed everything this year. Head coach Diane Hasenbank still works with choreographer Ryan Skrocki, who lives in New York. 

“Ryan was in the first graduating class at Hagerty,” Hasenbank said. “He always expressed interest in choreographing so as the years went on I have given him opportunities to grow on that side of dance.” 

Despite the distance, dancers use iPads to connect with Skrocki to discuss and teach their Jazz and lyrical dances that placed them in ninth for jazz and fourth for lyrical last year at nationals. Still, the long distance work is challenging. 

“There has been a big learning curve while working via Connect, not with technology, but how you create choreography, teach choreography, and get the dancers to intake and process the routines,” Skrocki said. 

Along with practices, each team member must take an additional dance class at school. Hasenbank understands that most of the dancers already do extracurricular activities with the sport, but feels that the class offers opportunities beyond dance. 

“They already do so much dancing at their dance studios outside of school. I wanted to give them a chance to grow in other areas like leadership,” Hasenbank said.

Hasenbank also assigns dancers to lead warmups, create a plan for the day of what the team needs to work on, and tweak the choreography. 

“To have the responsibilities coach gives us is a great feeling,” senior Julia Johnson said. “It is reassuring to know she respects and trust our opinions and capabilities to lead the team to success.” 

At football games, varsity usually cheers for the team and fans on the sidelines, while JV is with the band up in the stands. But, as the band is no longer in the stands, JV has joined varsity on the sidelines.

“I enjoy being on the sidelines, but it was stressful to play catchup and learn all the cheers so quickly,” senior Madison Donaldson said. 

In past years, the JV dance team have performed with the band in their halftime show but have been moved to pregame. The varsity team still performs at the half but are six feet apart and limited in some of the dance moves that require physical contact. 

“It was definitely difficult to figure out the halftime show with the restrictions, but the team pushed through and came up with a great dance,” senior Skyler Diserafino said.

As football season ends and the team heads into competition season, the team switches from entertaining and providing spirit for the general public to maximizing their dances to get as many points on the scoresheet as possible. 

“I definitely feel pressure and nerves going into competition because everything seems so up in the air with COVID. And I want to build on from last year’s success and continue to do better in nationals,” Hammack said. 

Matthew Dearolph