Day in the Life: Dance Team

When the bell rings to signal the end of the school day, members of the TPHS Hip-Hop Dance Team flood through the glass doors of the dance studio, anticipating the next three hours of hard work as they refine their performance for the football game later in the night.

Each dancer bubbles with spirit as they greet each other with vibrantly colored socks, bows, necklaces and painted cheeks. Pre-game rehearsal begins with a team-wide meeting, led by hip-hop coaches Kaylar Preite and Francis Florendo, both of whom review the agenda for the day and relax the girls with their quick-witted jokes. Afterward, team captains lead a thorough warm-up routine to get the dancers loosened up and ready to perform.

The TPHS dance team made their debut on Aug. 19 during the Falcons’ first home football game against Ayala High School. Since then, they have performed before hundreds of electrified students, spreading TPHS spirit to numerous home crowds. Even after the end of football season, the team will
continue choreographing, training and polishing to compete in both regional and national competitions. That is not to mention the numerous school performances and shows the team takes part in.

“School concerts help the dancers prepare for competition,” Sarah Kaye, director of the TPHS Dance Company said. “I’m excited for the Arts Festival this year [in April] and the student choreography showcase in May. I love guiding my students in the creative process and watching them make their own work.”

But no matter the years of experience or the familiarity with the routine, pre-game jitters are still ever-present for the dancers. These jitters, however, are soothed by the team’s ‘practice-makes-perfect’ ideology.

“We usually try to get all of our nerves out before we go on, so we rehearse the dance a bunch of times after warm-ups, over and over,” Orli Gollan-Meyers (12), a varsity team captain said. “Sometimes we go in a circle and listen to the music and just kind of do it in our heads too.”

This method helps the team mentally rehearse and get into a more focused frame of mind.

“Sometimes you’ll hear teachers use the term ‘growth mindset’ and that’s something we believe in too,” Camille Kraft (11), a JV team captain said. “I think that’s part of the reason why I love it so much: you can always improve and there’s no definition of a perfect dancer.”

The athletes walk through the dance, marking and cleaning it, terms describing the practice of slowing down individual dance movements to “clean up” any non-synchronous motions.

“It gets really nit-picky,” Florendo said. “We detail how to do the movement, what the accents are, what your angles are supposed to be. We just want to make sure everyone looks synchronized.”

After the marking process, they run through the dance “full-out,” their faces taut with passion as they dance with enough power to shake the Earth beneath them.

In the last few moments before gracing the stadium floor with their spirited and synchronic presence, dancers fight off nerves in a number of ways. With the lights turned off and Pitbull blaring through the speakers, many dancers jump up and down with their friends while singing out loud. Others create TikToks with their coaches (@torreypinesdanceteam), a number of which have received hundreds of thousands of views on the platform. Some even improv to the music, from break dances to pirouettes, while the entire team cheers them on.

“There’s no sad energy,” Kraft said. “We all love each other and we’re a really nice family.”

Even Preite, who has been a team coach for the past five years, feels the familial connection that each dancer has with one another.

“We want everyone to be able to feel like they belong here, no matter what their family situation is at home and their class situations with their teachers,” Preite said. “[When things start getting too stressful], I always just remind them of the reason they came to Torrey Pines and the reason they auditioned for dance team: they all love dance.”

With group selfies taken and hair ribbons tightened, the team is off to the stadium. There, the crowds whoop and applaud as the team huddles together, chanting their lucky phrase “TP Do Work!”

“[Our team goal] doesn’t necessarily mean winning first place in a competition, but it could be just putting our best foot forward and feeling good with what we perform,” Kraft said.

Muffled by the sound of the audience, the tired breaths of the dancers follow them off the field and back to the studio. But to the audience, the dance team appears invincible. In a flood of synchronized movement, the dance team bridges the artistic and athletic worlds of TPHS. With the stadium lights on their faces andhundreds of hours of dedicated practice behind every move, this is a day in the life of the TPHS dance team.

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