“When the pain cuts you deep, when the night keeps you from sleeping, just look and you will see that I will be your remedy.”
Sophomore Annie Yang wanted her solo for this competition season to mean something to her. And to make her solo as meaningful as possible, she chose to take complete control over her routine — she choreographed the dance and chose the music, “Remedy” by Adele.
“The song is saying even if I’m going through dark times or going through struggles, there’s always that someone or a group of people that’s always there for me and lifting me up,” Yang said. “It just really reminded me how grateful I am to have those certain people in my life to help me look at the bright side.”
Perhaps that song captures the spirit of the Marquesas accurately — they are a team that values togetherness, in terms of both team friendships as well as the synchronization of their kick lines. Their year was filled with change. P.E. department lead Dasha Plaza became the new coach. They stopped performing character routines and began competing in the hip-hop division. They worked with new choreographers, and their routines had different styles. Small things changed too — they stopped wearing tights and got new shoes. And leading the team through it all has been the officers.
FINDING A TEAM
Sophomore Jana Tsai is one of dance team’s newest members. But unlike them, she’s also one of the 2018-19 officers, breaking the precedent where only returning members can become an officer. Tsai, who dances at Nor Cal Dance Arts, participates in convention-style competitions and was interested in experiencing the different atmosphere of competing with dance team. She’s heard about the difference from her older sisters, who are both former Marquesas.
“I want to learn what it’s like to be on a team like that because I’m used to other types of competitions from outside dance and I know that dance team is completely different — that’s what I hear from my sisters and other dance teachers,” Tsai said. “I just want to learn how to be able to work under that kind of pressure.”
Tsai’s audition was unconventional too — since she couldn’t make the date of the actual officer auditions, she auditioned during her P.E. dance class which Plaza teaches. She taught a group of dancers in the class a short routine, and Plaza interviewed her after.
Next year, Tsai will continue to compete with her studio, but will cut back on her time there to allow room in her schedule for dance team’s practices and competitions. Although jumping straight into a leadership position will be different, she’s excited to learn from her fellow officers and continue pursuing dance in a different setting.
“It will be different because I won’t get to have that experience of just being [a member] looking up to the officers but I really appreciate Ms. Plaza [for] allowing me to have this position because she knows, and I know how much I love dancing and I just — it feels like it’s just meant to be,” Tsai said.
Freshmen Ellie Kim and Isabella He, as well as sophomore Annie Yang were all members of the team this school year. For He, the 2017-18 officers were both understanding and encouraging, continually pulling the team closer while pushing them to work harder. Although their work ethic inevitably faltered at times, the team’s work was rewarded with a series of accolades at Nationals, including placing second in the nation for their kick routine.
“There were some times where I feel like we were at the edge of kind of giving up, but in the end we pulled through and it was worth it,” Yang said.
As a returning member this year, Yang felt that the team had run differently the year before. She said that last year the team had stayed more consistent in its work ethic, without the distraction of change the Marquesas dealt with this year. Yang said that being on the team has taught her how to adapt to change quickly.
Yet, next year guarantees change as well, and Yang is hoping to continue learning how to deal with it. For starters, there are two male dancers on the team, and the Marquesas, the name the team has had since its creation, is being changed to the Monta Vista Dance Team. The series of changes this year shaped He’s perception of the team as well, and she kept it in mind when auditioning for an officer position.
“I just wanted to say [to the judges] that I would be there to be a liaison between the team and the coaches,” He said. “At first I wasn’t really expecting to get an officer [position], but I’m hoping that our whole officer team will be able to help the team go through this year.”
This officer team is also unique in that none of them are incoming seniors. Despite the fear that some of the officers have about leading and correcting those who are older than them, Kim believes that corrections are integral to the team’s improvement.
“It is scary when you give corrections [to someone] older than you because they might either totally disregard you and not listen to you, but in a dance team, I feel like that’s the weakest point,” Kim said. “If you don’t listen to corrections — older or younger, whoever’s giving it to you — then why are you even there? You’re not going to improve if you don’t listen to corrections so I feel like as officers, we can’t be afraid to give corrections [and] people have to be open to taking them.”
Besides the matter of age, taking a leadership position on the team itself is something new for these dancers. But after leading the auditions for the team on April 9, 11 and 12, Yang says that much of that fear was dispelled.
“[Leading auditions] actually made me feel really proud I guess because when I first started off leading, I didn’t know how I’d do,” Yang said. “I [felt] like I’d be a little shaky and nervous but it was actually really fun for me leading and showing them what dance team is like and telling them [about] my experiences.”
These officers have already shifted into their leadership positions in the team, sharing similar goals like helping the team bond, running more smoothly and as always, improving their dancing. But at the end of the day, Kim says the most important thing she’s learned this past year is that regardless of the circumstances, the team sticks together.
“What happens happens, but it’s good to know that there are people around you to help you out,” Kim said.
FINDING HER STEP
Sophomore Jennifer Huang was the youngest officer on the 2017-18 team, surrounded by three seniors. Being two years younger than the others, Huang said she held some doubt in her abilities to lead the team. But after completing a year of leadership experience, she encourages her co-officers on the 2018-19 team to overcome that fear.
“Every single time we’d have meetings or something, I’d always be really quiet because I was always like ‘I don’t think I have enough experience to be talking up in meetings’ but also in general in practices I was kind of scared,” Huang said. “I feel like it’s gotten a lot better … Just don’t be scared. You were chosen as a leader of this team so you should take that as a tool.”
Even with that slight sense of timidness, Huang said she’s learned a lot about leadership over the past year.
“It’s taught me that leadership doesn’t always have to be harsh,” Huang said. “It can also be just getting to know each and every single member of the team and trying to see like ‘Oh, what are their good points, what can they improve on’ and taking those good points and applying it to myself.”
Over this past year, Huang says the team experimented with more stylistic choreography, which is certainly a learning process. However, she says that figuring out how to express herself through dance during the two years she’s been on the team has taught her to be patient.
“It’s going to take a long time to see the results that we want to see sometimes but be patient and it’ll eventually come as long as you work hard,” Huang said.
Senior Caitlin Malone says that part of being an officer is a surprising amount of Target trips. Sometimes it’s to buy candy — the officers like to do small motivational things for the team. Other times it’s to buy gifts for the guest performers at dance team’s shows. Malone’s Target trips continued until the seniors performed for the last time at the spring show.
The last show is somewhat celebratory. It welcomes the incoming team and bids farewell to the seniors. They perform a new closing routine, which was superhero-themed this year. Malone says it’s usually put together quickly and is “goofy and messy,” but always fun. Yet as always, there’s still a sense of sadness that comes with leaving the team behind.
“It’s kind of sad seeing how it still goes on when you’re not on the team anymore and everything keeps moving, even without you,” Malone said.
Malone and seniors Tiffany Liu and Kristin Li have been officers for two years, and they’ve been on dance team for all four years of high school. They’ve watched people both leave and join the team.
“Every year it’s like you have a new team and so you get to see everyone growing as dancers and see where they’re going off to in the future,” Li said. “It’s kind of like a new family every year.”
This year, Liu says she went to the dance team auditions to watch the old members of the team re-audition, and to watch the 2018-19 officers lead the auditions.
“It just made me really happy, seeing all the old members and the new officers,” Liu said. “It just made me happy seeing everyone grow so much.”
For these seniors who have been on the team for all four years, Malone says that it was hard to adjust after former dance team coach and history teacher Hilary Barron chose to retire after a decade of coaching at the end of the 2016-17 school year. And although Malone says there were conflicts here and there this year, addressing them made the team closer.
“It’s like little things, but just because we did everything the same exact way, it seems like a lot,” Malone said.
Just as the team is constantly evolving, the seniors on the team have changed throughout the past four years as well.
“I’ve honestly grown a lot as a person and a dancer,” Liu said. “I’ve gotten a lot more confident — I used to be super shy and I would never do an interview. But being here today, and being a co-captain, I’ve just really grown and learned a lot about myself and I never thought I’d be here today.”
For Malone, a lot of being an officer was learning to communicate with both the team and the coach, and finding a way to balance being a friend to the team while leading them. Looking back on these past four years, football season stands out as her favorite time of the year.
“Each year is different but it’s kind of the same thing so football season as a whole is one of my favorite parts of dance team just because … that part focuses more on the school spirit, which is why I really did dance team,” Malone said.
After the football season ends, the other major part of dance team’s year is the competition season, which culminates in Nationals. Among other accolades, the Marquesas were kick champions in both 2016 and 2017, and placed second this year with a routine choreographed by MVHS class of 2014 alumnus Kelly Yen to Shakira’s “Dare.”
“[Nationals] is my favorite thing about dance team because you get to go away from school and go to Disneyland, but also just seeing the other teams there and being inspired by the other LA dancers is really fun,” Li said. “We did amazing, we went into finals for kick and even though we didn’t win, we still felt like we gave it our all.”
Liu remembers how she felt as she performed that kick routine at Nationals.
“I was like ‘Wow this is actually one of the last times I’ll be performing on this stage with all the lights shining’ and it was sad but at the same time it was happy,” Liu said. “I was sad that this was my last time but then I was happy that I was doing it with my team.”