Dance team doubles at state
Waupaca girls win jazz, defend pom title
By James Card
The Waupaca Middle School dance team won two state titles at the competition in Port Washington on Saturday, Jan. 21.
It wasn’t the first time they performed on that stage. Earlier in the year, their co-coaches Chloe Johnson and Hanna Waller signed them up for their first competition there.
It was a psychological maneuver: get the girls to perform on stage where they would eventually compete for the state championship. It would be nothing new. There would be no surprises. They had been there before. It gave them confidence.
On the morning of the state competition they were up at 4 a.m. For two minutes and 15 seconds they had to execute their routines flawlessly.
They practiced hard since late August. Three days a week for the early season and five days a week for the rest of the season and over Christmas break. They busted out push-ups, sit-ups and endless relevé toe rises. They practiced yoga, breathing techniques and focused on mental toughness.
They called themselves Team We, as in we over me. No selfishness. Choose each other. Work together as one. The members of the team wrote down all of their fears on slips of paper and said goodbye to them. They burned them in a bucket and then they lit up the stage with their performance.
Returning pom champions
Last year was the first time in school history they won a state pom championship. This year they were a young group. They lost 13 eighth graders so they brought up four fifth graders for the competition team.
“It was the reason why we decided to take that first competition at Port Washington at the beginning of the year so the girls could – especially those young ones – they could see what that floor looks like at state, know how it feels and picture themselves dancing,” said Johnson.
Earlier the season they competed at Port Washington, Ashwaubenon, Little Chute, Freedom and Kaukauna and garnered many first-place wins.
At the state competition, they beat Little Chute, a school with a powerhouse dance program, by five points in the pom category. For their first state win in the jazz category they beat Franklin by nine points.
The pom music was a custom mix of fight-themed songs to inspire the defense of last year’s title. Their jazz song was “Can We Pretend” by the artist Pink.
“It was a trying season but this team fought all season long. My co-coach, Hanna, and myself, couldn’t be more proud of these girls. All 14 of them,” said Johnson.
Both coaches are Wauapaca High School alumni and were on the dance team when they were students. Amy Markham started the Waupaca dance program 23 years ago.
“She’s been my mentor,” said Johnson. “She is the reason why we are all here and loving dance and giving back to the program that gave so much to us.”