Dance team looks to build off state title, shift focus to nationals


Archive photo

The Bearden dance team performs its third place pom routine; the Lady Bulldogs also won state in the jazz category.

Wyeth Wilson, Staff Writer

After another successful state competition, the Bearden dance team can now shift its focus toward preparing for improving upon last year’s already standout performance at nationals.

The Lady Bulldogs finished in first place in the jazz category at state on Nov. 15; they finished in third place in pom.

“We’re just taking what we did at state and improving on it, adding different choreography and different dancers,” senior McKensie Wehinger said. “We just want to beat ourselves.

“We did pretty well last year (at nationals), but we want to improve on it.”

Added senior Merrielle Luepke: “Last year, we had a Bearden best by placing third in pom, out of about 60 teams from all across the nation. We would be super excited to accomplish that again and even bring up our jazz placement from seventh to a top five finish.”

Bearden will compete in a pom category and a jazz category at nationals in February, the same as what they competed in at the state competition.

“Pom is what you see with pom-poms,” senior Ashley Williams said. “It’s a very sharp and dynamic routine and more amped up and in your face. The other category is jazz dance, which is very stylistic and more emotional.

“They’re both very different.”

As for preparations for nationals, Luepke said that soon a choreographer will come in to change the choreography and raise the level of difficulty for the dance team’s routines.

“Our normal practices every week are for two hours after school Monday through Thursday, but during competition season we also practice Friday nights and Saturdays,” Luepke said. “Our practices consist of conditioning, technique, and dancing in hand weights to practice using sharp motions.

“In a few weeks, our choreographer will come in for a weekend to tweak the choreography and raise the level of difficulty for our routines to help us compete with the teams that show up at nationals.”

But before Bearden can fully shift its focus toward nationals, the Lady Bulldogs will compete in the Smoky Mountain Christmas Challenge in two weeks.

“We will compete with our state dances at that competition, and then our choreographer comes in in December to change our dances and we will compete with those new dances at nationals,” Williams said.

One of the main reasons for the dance team’s high finish at state is team unity. The 23 members of the team are closely-knit and attribute their success to that fact.

“These girls are my sisters,” Williams said. “We spend a lot of time together, and we count on each other for everything.

“All of us on the team are different, but when you put us all in the same dance, we manage to fit together.”