Varsity dance takes national title


photo by Gina Krawczyk

The varsity dance team celebrates their national victory on Feb. 20. This is the first time that they have taken a national title in the team’s history.

Huddled on the Marriott World Center dance floor, the Unleashed varsity dance team listened to the announcer list the results of the Dance Team Union national competition. As she reached the final two teams – Miami Arts Charter School and Hagerty – the girls held their breath. 

On Feb. 20, the team’s dreams of first place came true, as they were named the national champion in the All-Star Lyrical category, the first national championship in Unleashed history.

“I was in shock [when we won],” senior and team captain Lexi Smith said. “I never could have imagined actually going home with rings and jackets.”

At the competition, the team performed a lyrical and jazz routine, with the jazz routine placing fourth in the nation. According to senior Kelly Krawczyk, these routines were different from those they competed with in the past, and made them stand out against the other teams.

“Our jazz dance was very spicy and nothing like anyone had done before,” Krawczyk said. “The dances were unique and not the same sad, somber dances that a lot of other schools bring to these competitions.”

Along with the group routines, junior Rita Smith and sophomore Ireland Harkins competed solos. Rita earned 12th place and Harkins placed sixth in the nation in their respective categories and age groups. Competing a solo is both scary and rewarding, Harkins said.

“When the lights hit me, I was extremely terrified,” Harkins said. “But when I turned around to see my team sitting right in front of me, I felt better.”

To prepare, the team practiced in class throughout the year, as well as staying after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays to clean up their dances. Most girls on the team also practice at other dance studios, allowing them extra time to practice their individual parts. Head coach Diane Hasenbank feels that the team was more than prepared to compete at nationals.

“We were more prepared than we ever have been,” Hasenbank said. “Our captains were instrumental in preparing the rest of the team for the mental aspect of the competition environment.”

Additionally, the team performed at other competitions leading up to nationals, placing first in lyrical and second in jazz at the DTU regional competition at Seminole. The team will compete in another regional competition in two weeks, according to Smith. 

“This is the most cohesive and technical team we’ve ever had at our school,” Smith said. “It’s been such a great experience guiding the team to victory.”

Throughout the year, the team developed a close bond, which was different from past years. Personal drama tended to cloud the team’s dynamic in the past, but this year, according to Krawczyk, all of the drama was left outside the dance door.

“This is the team I have felt the closest with out of all four years I have been on the dance team,” Krawczyk said. “[Our bond] definitely helped us have a successful season.”

The team hopes to have their victory banner hung in the gym to honor their national title, as well as show the student body that they do more than dance on the sidelines during football games.

“I don’t think people understand what we do,” Krawczyk said. “But we are still so proud of the work we put into our dances.”