Becoming the top-ranked dance team in the state for the fourth year in a row takes practice. A lot of practice.
The 18-member Meadowdale High School dance team worked two hours a day, five days a week to perfect every double turn, leap and spin in their three-minute routine.
That devotion earned the team the Class 3A state championship recently and a third place in the national competition March 29.
“I know we wouldn’t be as good as we are without being as dedicated as we are,” said senior Tarah Thordarson, 17, a co-caption on the all-female team.
The team left Thursday March 27 for the United Spirit Association’s dance and drill team national competition in Anaheim, Calif. The team, which practices and dances almost year-round, faced about 60 other teams in the open intermediate division.
The Meadowdale dancers struggled in competition early this year and at times looked like 18 individual dancers moving to the same music instead of performing in unison as a team, said their coach, Julie McClendon.
“They’ve been doing the same amount of practice all year, but they haven’t been dancing together,” she said. “Unless you dance as a team, you don’t look very good.”
The team pulled together before the state competition, and it showed in their routine, which was judged “Superior,” she said.
“Everyone realized it was focus time and there was no space for slacking off,” said senior Kimberlee Couilliard, 18, a team captain.
The theme of the routine is India, and features India-inspired moves, music, jewelry and makeup.
The team had to make last-minute adjustments to that routine Wednesday March 26 after learning that one dancer hadn’t completed enough classes to compete at nationals, McClendon said.
McClendon, 22, took over for longtime coach Karen Michel this month after Michel decided to step down.
“I was just feeling that I wasn’t able to give the girls the energy and take them to the next level like somebody fresh would be able to do,” said Michel, who stayed on to help McClendon and the team prepare for state and nationals.
McClendon, a Meadowdale graduate who danced on the team from 1995 to 1998, said she’s excited to be coaching such a strong group of dancers.
“They’ve come a long way this year, and I’m very proud of them,” she said.
Many of the teens take dance classes in addition to the 10 to 12 hours a week they spend at team practice, McClendon said. The team also performs at school basketball games.
“They’re probably one of the hardest-working teams at the school,” Michel said.
The dancers will get to spend a day in Disneyland while they’re in California, but they won’t get to rest for long once they get back.
Tryouts for next year’s dance team are scheduled April 28 through May 7. All current team members must audition again.
It’s tough to land a spot on the team, but years of dance training isn’t a prerequisite.
“I’ve had girls who don’t have very much dance experience do very well,” Michel said. “Heart and confidence have a lot to do with it.”
Katherine Schiffner is a reporter for The Herald in Everett.
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