Pandemic practices: Dance team pushes on
November 30, 2020
For every sports team, not just at Fossil Ridge High School, seasons have been less than ideal. All kinds of restrictions, from being without spectators to reduced numbers of practices have been weighing heavily on teams. Despite this, student athletes are doing everything they can to safely continue to play sports.
Now, more than ever, exercise is vital. According to Nuvance Health, “Exercise is especially important now because it can reduce stress, prevent weight gain, boost the immune system, and improve sleep.”
In the midst of a pandemic, Fossil’s Varsity Dance Team has done their best to navigate having some type of season. Although full of uncertainty, they have found ways to make the most of the situation. The team plans on practicing as long as it is safe to continue to get exercise, have a sense of community, and get a break from stress.
Three members of the Varsity Dance Team are a part of Etched in Stone’s staff, and they have worked together to explain what it is like to have high school sports as COVID-19 rages on.
Delayed dance season kicks off the summer
The Fossil Ridge High School Dance Team was lucky enough to travel to Orlando, Florida and have the opportunity to compete at the national level one week before the country was shut down, due to COVID-19.
We are so grateful that we were able to attend the National Dance Association’s national competition at Disney World to cap off our wonderful season. We were unaware, much like the rest of the world, of what was going to occur in our country over the next several months.
Tryouts for the next season were originally scheduled for the end of April, but because of the pandemic, everything that was planned to be in person was canceled to avoid contact. To keep in shape, our newest assistant coach, Sidney Harvey, led a weekly Zoom class to work on technique and keep our bodies moving.
Harvey is a member of the University of Colorado Boulder Dance Team and she has been competitively dancing as well as being on the sidelines for years. The 2020-2021 season is her first year as a member of a coaching staff.
Harvey admits that, as a first time coach, this season has been challenging to, “[keep] athletes connected, in shape, and motivated with always changing plans.”
Although this has not been the most ideal season for a competition inclined sport, Harvey has learned that the dancers are “resilient and can overcome any challenge that is put in front of them.” The importance of valuing practice time in person and performances has become more apparent while we are apart from one another.
As the newest member of the Fossil Dance Team, over the summer, Harvey would prepare choreography for the current team to learn, as well as incoming freshmen who were interested in joining the sport. These clinics helped the aspiring teammates to train before the tryout that was scheduled for early June.
Mackenzie Lorenzen, a former member of the Fossil Dance Team and a current dancer on the Colorado State University Golden Poms, choreographed both a Pom and Hip-hop routine for the team to audition with. Each dance had specific skills and tricks that our couches wanted throughout the season, so we all fought for these to stay consistent.
Our coaches were able to get a studio space for us to audition in, since the type of flooring that works best for dancing is very specific. We were all randomly split into groups of three in order to keep our six feet from one another. There was a panel of three judges: Harvey, Lorenzen and Dawson Woods, who is also a member of the CU Boulder Dance Team.
Fossil’s Dance Team is split up into two main categories: game-day and competition dancing. As the dance team is a part of the spirit leaders at Fossil, we perform for our peers on the sidelines and during halftime at football and basketball games. Aside from that, we typically compete at regional, state, and national competitions.
Once both the competition and game-day teams were decided, we began practicing at Twin Silos Park while practicing social distancing, since we were no longer allowed to be on the Poudre School District property. We did training and conditioning at the park a couple mornings out of the week, while getting studio space each Wednesday at Just for Kix.
Harvey and our other assistant coach, Tessa Lovell, created dances and sideline cheers for us to learn and perfect to prepare for the possibility of football games in the upcoming fall. We worked on drilling arm placement in Pom motions so all of our dances were strong and sharp, while on the other hand, focusing on groovy elements for Hip-hop.
The beginning of our season was chaotic and unpredictable, yet we did not take one practice for granted since we knew it could be over at any time. For now, we just enjoy any time we can grasp with our teammates.
Fossil’s dance team remains persistent
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, plans have changed time and time again for many people, including the Fossil Ridge High School Dance Team. However, among all the changes that have taken place, the dancers on the team have continued to work throughout our season.
The team, in an effort to stay on top of our technique and skills, have opted to take extra classes at local studios, including The Studio and Immersions Dance Center. These classes give the dancers an opportunity to get corrections from teachers, and give us a space to try new things, as well as drill older skills.
The dancers have also been kept busy with workouts sent by coaches. The team members are given a workout at the beginning of every week, and must complete these by the end of the week. Our coaches hope that, by providing the dancers with a mandatory workout every week, we will be able to keep up our stamina while the team is not allowed many practices.
Athletic Weights, a class offered to Fossil’s students, is also a new mandate for the team’s competition dancers. Taught by Beck Easton, the class helps the dancers get stronger, which is important for us to continue improving our performance and skills. The class, while it was always going to be a requirement for the dancers during the 2020-2021 school year, has been helpful for all of the dancers to continue improving, even when practices are limited.
While the team’s work ethic has remained consistent, the plans for our competition season have been anything but. With restrictions constantly changing, the competition season has played somewhat of a balancing act.
“I hope for one competition, just something that will kind of lead to some normalcy,” says Tessa Lovell, a coach on the dance team.
While a competition season still hangs in the air, the coaches have been working to be as prepared as possible for whatever season the team is able to have. The coaches have been working together to choreograph a competition piece for the dancers.
“Normally we would hire a choreographer, but with limited funds and just not the promise of an actual competition season we figured we’d use our resources,” Lovell explains.
Among all of the ever changing plans, the team has given our best effort to take as many opportunities as we can get, even if practices are limited.
The team hopes that, even as other things continue to be changed and cancelled, we can continue to stay in touch.
“If practice got cancelled we would probably focus more on the team bonding aspect of it,” Lovell says. “Setting up team zoom meetings or doing little activities kind of online just to stay in touch with the team the rest of the season.”
Uncertainty still surrounds the season, but the team has upheld positive spirits and never ceased to improve both dance skills and team atmosphere.
Football season in sudden full swing
Near the end of September, the team received a message from the coaches saying we were cleared to have a fall football season. This was pretty sudden, and we were all caught off guard. The team went from casually practicing—focusing on technique and occasionally game day materials—to putting our full attention onto games. Quickly, we went from dancing two days a week to four, and we were officially in season.
With a quick turnaround to prepare for our first game, we brought back a halftime dance I did my sophomore year called “Two Step.” All of our halftime routines have names which are based on the songs. I was very excited to bring back this dance, as it was a team favorite two years ago. Those who did not yet know the dance caught on quickly, and soon we had our first dance ready.
The team’s head coach, Billie Sprague, had to shift her expectations for this year. We began our season with intentions to practice harder and approach the year with more intensity. However, that all had to change and now Sprague is focusing on the well being of the girls.
“My expectation is to have fun, do [our] thing and enjoy doing it while we can. We are doing what we do to the best of our ability, under all the guidelines and circumstances,” Sprague reflects.
A new obstacle for everyone came when we had to create formations that were six feet apart. We had to remove our moments of crossings and clumps, but we found creative ways to work around that just fine.
Finally, the night arrived for our first game. Due to the uncertainty of future games, Senior Night was during the first one. Senior Night is typically the last home game of the season. But, because that one ended up getting canceled, I am glad it ended up being the first. On top of that, it was our freshmen’s first ever game. Nerves were high, but our excitement met if not exceeded it.
Senior Night hit differently because it was the first game. When it is the last game, it feels more emotional and brings a sense of nostalgia. It was a little strange having it so early. I also was sad I could not participate in the same traditions, such as walking across the field with my family. However, cheer and dance seniors still got to stand on the field and be announced at halftime, while coaches brought us flowers. Even though Senior Night was not the night I had expected, it still made me feel special and I enjoyed getting some form of it.
It was a little strange dancing without full stands. I missed seeing my friends in pep band as I did sidelines, and getting to dance in front of my peers. I must say, I am very disappointed I never got my chance to do the “do it” cheer as a senior. But, the parents were lovely, and I quickly warmed up to the smaller crowd. I have just been so grateful we have gotten our football season, that I would dance for anyone.
For our second game, we came prepared with a brand new Pom dance by a guest choreographer. This dance was called “TNT.” I was not a part of this dance, as I was out of town the weekend the choreographer came to work with the team. Despite not being in halftime I still loved to cheer on my team as they performed, and they did an amazing job.
Unlike the first game we had a little more time to prepare, so the dance went through hours of cleaning. Most people do not know how much work we put into a minute routine to perfect it. Cleaning is a long process where we go through the dance, count by count. Coaches look at every move, making sure every arm is at the same angle, every body is facing the same way, and every foot is placed correctly. Cleaning is not the most fun—it took us an hour and a half to clean fifteen seconds of TNT. However, it makes a big difference in our dances, and they look so much better after cleaning.
Our next game was against Poudre High School, where we were thrilled to be victorious over a cross-town rivalry. Since it was an away game, we did not perform at halftime. Instead, we stuck to doing our sidelines. These are small dances we can do to pep tunes or music through the team speaker. We use these dances during timeouts and between plays to entertain the spectators. Although small, we have fifteen different sideline dances along with our fight song. It is a lot to remember and keep track of, but typically after a new teammate’s first game they come pretty naturally.
And, just like that, our final game was cancelled. After members on Fossil’s football team tested positive for COVID-19, the game was off. It was a bit relieving as we had been cramming to clean a very complicated dance, but I was disappointed to not get the finale of our season.
Before we knew it, we were back to being stuck in remote learning with only our studio classes and a single practice. Personally it was difficult to make this shift, as I went from dance being the only activity I had left, to barely anything. There was so much uncertainty, but there was a bit of talk about our game against Rocky Mountain High School getting rescheduled. To our excitement, it was on—but the day before Thanksgiving, with no spectators.
My final football game of high school had sun instead of Friday Night Lights and empty stands instead of cheering students. We continued to do sidelines, turning around to face nobody as we danced. It felt weird to not perform, but as I entered French Field that day, I had no intention of dancing for anyone else.
This last game was for me. It is my senior year, and for me this game meant closure. It meant getting to be with my teammates on the field one last time, enjoying each other’s company, and just being present. We finally got to do our halftime “Captain Hook,” which was choreographed by our newest coach. This dance we learned over the summer, and it has been the team’s favorite. We used our dance Instagram to livestream our performance, and we were thrilled with how we did. Hours of cleaning paid off, and our dance looked very together.
Now, we do not know what comes next. We have some sort of competition and basketball seasons ahead of us, but we are not sure when they will be or what they will look like. For now, the team is just trying to dance as much as we can. For us, dance is our escape. It is our one chance to get out and move, and be in community. We will continue to dance as long as it is safe to do so, no matter what the remainder of our season looks like.
When looking back at the season so far, Sprague says “[My proudest moment] honestly is just the team’s resilience. From day one it’s just been let down after letdown. So I’m just proud of the team’s resiliency and being able to roll with the punches and go with the flow; take the stuff that we do get and make the best of it.”
This is Sprague’s third year coaching the team, yet nothing could prepare her for how this year would go. She is constantly on the phone with different directors and studio owners, just fighting to get opportunities for the team to practice. Due to Poudre School District going back to remote learning, the team currently does not have a place to practice outside of the studio classes. She has to take into consideration schedules, COVID-19 guidelines, and weather as she pushes forward with uncertainty.
For the dance team, we are never really done. We continue to practice, learn and get stronger. Even if we cannot perform or compete, we are dancing this year completely for ourselves, and for our team. And for me, in my senior year, I am content with that.