The varsity Unleashed dance team kicks high with smiles on their faces as they perform their pom dance at MA nationals.

Hannah Hadelman, Staff Reporter

Six hours on a plane followed by an hour in a shuttle did not dull the Unleashed dance team’s excitement to perform at the Marching Auxiliary Nationals for the first time. The varsity and junior varsity dance teams traveled to Fort Worth, Texas on March 24 and 25 for the competition, and performed eight group dances and 11 solos that all placed either first, second or third.

Forty girls flew out of Orlando International with Coach Diane Hasenbank, who prepared the group dances for nationals, four for each team: open, pom, hip-hop and lyrical.

JV’s lyrical and pom came in first, the first two national wins ever for the team. Competing against seven teams, the team’s other dance routines came in either second or third and their scores were both very close to the next placement up.

Varsity competed against 15 teams and they placed either first, second or third in every dance. Together, the two teams performed 11 solos, and despite 100 solos in freshman Sarah Chandler’s division, she came in third.

“I felt really good when I came off stage,” Chandler said. “It was probably the best time I have ever danced.”

Although Sarah Chandler placed high, it was not the highlight of the competition.

“Staying in the hotel was my favorite memory from nationals because we all got to eat dinner together, hang out and have fun,” Chandler said.

This is the first time Unleashed has been to this competition.

“Now going and seeing what this particular competition is looking for, I think we did really well,” Hasenbank said. “There are things now that if we were to go back next year or following years that I, as a choreographer, would do differently, but they are not things that our girls cannot handle.”

The team’s style of dance is clean, classic and straightforward, which is different than the theatrical style of dance that the teams who placed above them had.

Although the style of dance held them back from the top spot, it did not hold the dancers back from having fun.

“Hip-hop is really fun to perform, it and the crowd is always engaged,” senior captain Kylie Riordan said.

Coming home with trophies is a great accomplishment for the teams, but what really matters to Hasenbank is the effort that the dancers put in. If they come off the stage and tell her that they did everything they could do and that they had a good time doing it, then Hasenbank is satisfied and proud.

“I feel [the team] did really well and it was probably one of our best runs for the pom dance,” junior Abby Smith said.

Team members believe their dances at nationals were the best they had ever done them, but when asked what their favorite part of nationals was, they all had the same answer: spending time with each other and the team.

“Overall this year we are way more successful than last year. Not just as far as dancing and how we did at competitions,” Hasenbank said. “But coming together as a team, bonding, and dancing as a whole.”

Each year, Unleashed ends on a positive note. However, this year is different when compared to last year. Previously, Hasenbank had to rebuild the girls’ confidence due to less success at competition. Although appreciating and utilizing their down time in between seasons, the dancers are excited to jump into things for next year.

“Although it is my first year on the team, doing this well at nationals really makes me want to be on the team for the rest of high school,” Chandler said.

Although competition season is over, the teams still have performances and practices leading up to Spring Show, occurring May 12. Here, when the teams will perform two of their nationals dances and all seniors perform a solo for senior good-bye.

After the show, tryouts are May 17-18, with a parent meeting on May 16 in the media center.

The average amount of dancers per team is 20 on varsity and 20-25 on JV, and practices typically last two to three hours. Dancing on Unleashed requires a lot of commitment, but for Smith it is all worth it.

“I love dancing on Unleashed because of the team aspect,” Smith said. “Although I am going into my last season, I get to dance with all of my friends and I am so happy about that.”

Most used moves

Leg hold

Junior Madison Brown performs a leg hold. This is a skill used as a feature moment in routines.

Attitude jump

Sophomore Peyton Nichols performs an attitude jump. This jump is very versatile and is used in all types of dances.

Toe touch

Sophomore Kiaraly Santiago performs a toe touch, which is a basic jump typically used in pom dances.