Junior Isa Tamburini repeatedly practices her turns after school in the Drill Team room for multiple hours a week. She, among other Lancer Dancers, are hoping this extra practice will make up for the .06 points that cost them first place last year at nationals – points lost specifically because of the cleanliness and synchronization of their turns.
The Varsity Lancer Dancers have intensified measures this year by having both the captains and their coach assign “homework” each night that goes over corrections and new parts of the dances. Coach Alexis Close, otherwise known as Bubba, has also given the girls a list of assignments to help the dancers mentally prepare for nationals and assist them in hopes of improving from last year’s score.
“All of the things we are doing to prepare will create muscle memory and help engrave the steps in our head,” Tamburini said. “This will especially help when we get nervous because we’ll be confident that we know the dances.”
On Feb. 25th the Lancers will be traveling to Orlando, Florida to compete in their tenth NDA nationals. Every year, the Lancer Dancers perform a lyrical and hip-hop routine.
The Lancer Dancers will perform alongside hundreds of other high school teams from across the United States along with their buddy school, Olathe North. Close and the Olathe North coach discussed being buddy schools last year at a competition and it was organized through emails at the beginning of the year.
The Olathe North Eaglettes are also pen pals with a school in California but they thought it would be nice to create a support system from someone from their town. So far, each dancer has been assigned a “buddy” from the other team that they have been able to write to. Close and the Olathe North coach are also hoping to get their teams together while they are in Orlando to get dinner to take a break from the intensity of nationals.
“It’s really fun to see what other schools and drill teams are like and meeting new people,” Olathe North senior Ashton Thomas said. “I think [our] schools will continue being buddy schools because it creates friendships and united our dance teams.”
Though the Eaglettes are a competitor of the Lancer Dancers, the coaches thought it would be nice to have a team from the same town cheering for them while they perform in Orlando. Their hope is that being buddy schools with Olathe North will grow into a program that will continue for multiple years.
Another factor that has helped Drill Team prepare for nationals is East alumni Britney Hinote, who is training to be an National Dance Alliance judge and will also be working at nationals. Hinote has helped the Lancer Dancers with their different routines this year. She has attended every competition this year and has watched and critiqued their dance the same way the NDA judges will.
“My favorite part about helping the girls is being able to see them throughout their journey,” Hinote said. “It’s an unpredictable competition, but there is nothing I want to do more than to be able to hand them that first place trophy.”
This year, the Lancer Dancers will be performing two dances: “Lean On Me,” their lyrical dance, and their presidential hip-hop piece.
Both dances were choreographed this summer during a three-day camp in Emporia, KS. With 10 of the 20 members of Varsity being new year, the Lancer Dancers have been focusing on mentally and physically preparing the new dancers for the intensity that nationals brings.
“It’s the most intense experience I’ve ever had,” senior Brooke Erickson said. “The stakes are high. From the moment you start backstage rehearsal every dancer is thinking nothing except their upcoming performance.”
The Lancer Dancers are hoping to place in the top five for their hip-hop routine and top three in jazz.
“[NDA has] posted the other teams that are going, there is a whole bunch of new teams this year so we have no idea what to expect,” Close said. “It’s anyone’s game.”
With only a few days until nationals, the team is fixing up final touches and cleaning up the dance. They are focusing on making all the movements as synchronized as they can be.
“Of course we all have our eye on the championship and I have no doubt that this team is capable of winning it,” Close said. “I think we do our best when we take it one day at a time, and each day we try to be a better, stronger team than we were the day before.”