It's the ultimate groan-inducing moment: A dancer's graceful contemporary piece is going off without a hitch—her technique is flawless, her lines are pristine—but all of a sudden, she's taking four counts to walk to the upstage corner, narrowing her eyes in preparation. She might as well be yelling, “A TRICK SEQUENCE IS COMING." And she's broken the choreography's magic spell.
Jazz, tap, ballet, hip hop—you’ve trained in them all. But in high school and college, chances are you’ll find performance opportunities in styles and venues that you might not have experienced at your studio. You know you want to be involved, but which team is the best for you?
If your dream is to dance for your school, do your homework. Your school may have a drill team, pom squad, kickline or dance company—or a group that’s a mixture of all of these. So have an open mind, and don’t let yourself be dissuaded by the fact you’ve never picked up a pair of poms or done a kickline. Read on to learn about four different dance team opportunities and what you’ll need to do to make the cut.
What you’ll be doing: Performing high-energy routines featuring precise arm angles, high jumps and eye-catching visuals, seamlessly integrated with jazz technique—while holding poms!
Where you’ll perform: Anywhere with a lot of sports (and dance) fans, whether that’s a football field, basketball court or competition floor.
How to prepare: With pom-style dancing, you’re creating a picture on almost every count, so focus on your ability to be sharp while clearly stopping after each movement.
Don’t assume that dancing with poms means you’re restricted to cheering on the sidelines. According to Carol Lloyd, coach of the 13-time national champion University of Memphis Pom Squad, any dancer who is hesitant about performing a routine with poms “just hasn’t had the chance to dance one.” When you add poms to your dancing, you’re emphasizing every line you create. With every position, turn and jump accentuated, captain Jamie Kelly says, “performing with a pom squad forces you to become a stronger dancer.” And while new dancers will face the challenges of learning to dance the pom style, as well as perfecting traditional pom jumps like toe touches and herkies, Lloyd says “they will also be able to capitalize on basic technical skills they’ve already mastered.”
What you’ll be doing: Whether you’re performing a military, jazz, lyrical or novelty routine, you’ll be clean, precise and completely synchronized.
Where you’ll perform: Drill teams are often an important part of a school’s spirit squad, performing at games and assemblies. Competition—from the regional to national levels—can also be the primary focus.
How to prepare: Work on cleaning up your technique and learning to be perfectly in step with all of your fellow dancers. There are no soloists or stars on a drill team—the goal is unison.
As their military moniker indicates, drill teams are all about discipline. “It’s the strict discipline of the style and conduct that set drill teams apart,” explains Jamyn Miller, co-coach of the Bingham High School Minerettes in South Jordan, UT. “Everything the team does must be perfectly precise.” And while the drill team style—think intense, sharp choreography, brain teaser arm and head combinations, exacting formations and even synchronized head stands—can prove challenging at first, Minerettes captain Chantae Arroyo says, “The determination you learn from the way we practice gives you the confidence to master it.” Miller also emphasizes that this style is not for â€¨the faint of heart. One mistake in a routine during rehearsal has the entire team doing push-ups as an incentive to get it right. This may seem strict, but it helps boost their dancing to the level they sweat and strive for each day: perfection.
What you’ll be doing: Wowing the crowds with linked-up kickline routines and most definitely a jump-split or two.
Where you’ll perform: Football games, basketball games, pep rallies, assemblies and competitions—any space that can accommodate the line and your legs.
How to prepare: Increase your flexibility and strengthen your technique—both will give you the solid foundation you’ll need to integrate with your team. To be able to kick on your own without pressing down on the teammate next to you, you’ll need to maintain a strong core with Pilates, planks or sit-ups.
Take it from the lasting popularity of the Radio City Rockettes: Everyone loves a good kickline. With routines centered on intricate kick sequences, showstopping synchronization and solid jazz technique, often ending in a jump-split (yes, you read that right: jumping in the air together and landing in a perfect split while connected), it comes as no surprise that kickline is always a big crowd-pleaser. But a lot of hard work goes into perfecting those high kicks. “We have to ensure the dancers are not only kicking up and snapping their legs down in sync, but also safely, using the correct muscles and ligaments to sustain them through physically demanding practices and performances,” says Maureen Maguire, co-director of the six-time national kick champion Seminole High Dazzlers, in Sanford, FL. If flexibility isn’t your strong suit, don’t worry. The kick team’s regimen of daily stretching and practicing “can turn anyone into Gumby,” says co-director Shannon Maguire.
What you’ll be doing: Though probably most similar to the studio dancing you’re used to, being on a dance company allows you to really immerse yourself in dance as an art form, whether in one specific genre or a combination of styles. Plus, you may get to try your hand at choreography.
Where you’ll perform: You’ll most likely perform in multiple on-campus shows throughout the year and may have the opportunity to perform on a national or an international tour.
How to prepare: Take extra ballet and modern classes to develop your range as a performer. Be open to new styles and ideas about dance.
Athletic events and competition floors aren’t the only scholastic backdrops for dancers—many wonderful opportunities come via the stage. Being a member of your school’s dance company can be a chance to grow artistically and even give you a taste of what it’s like to dance professionally. “Taking advantage of every performance and choreographic opportunity possible in college was definitely instrumental in the development and evolution of the â€¨performer I am now,” says Jonathan Curtis, a recent graduate from the University of Arizona who is now a soloist in Le Rêve, a Cirque du Soleil–like show in Las Vegas. From pieces relying heavily on â€¨improvisation to contemporary ballet to ballroom or even aerial dance, you’ll have the chance “to work with professors and directors who can push you to deepen your â€¨appreciation of dance and your own abilities to perform and create,” Curtis says. Not planning on studying dance? Don’t count yourself out. Most dance companies open auditions to students from any major.
Megan Berry, a former member of the Brigham Young University Cougarettes, recently graduated with a BA in dance and is a Utah-based writer and dancer.