The Heritage High School dance program is flourishing on and off the stage this season.
The program, featuring 26 members divided into junior varsity and varsity squads, has grown from as few as six members in 2013 and is quickly making an impact at the school and in the community.
The squads are routinely seen at on-campus functions and community events, and they have placed in all of their regional competitions this season. Now they're gearing up for their first appearance at the challenging West Coast Elite Nationals in Southern California at the end of March.
“We have a huge program this season, which is awesome,” said Heritage head coach Miranda Hughes, who noted that the program features both a life-skills student and a male member this year — both firsts.
The unit’s success is driven by its passion for the sport and its dedication to improvement.
The squads comprise members who succeed in yearly tryouts, and they can be seen multiple times each week inside the school’s cafeteria, running through their dances in preparation for upcoming performances and competitions.
The work is challenging and fun, with individual members drawing on their own internal forces that power their drive to commit the required time and effort for success.
For some, it’s a desire to dance in college; others use it as stress relief; and still others enjoy the activity or join for other reasons.
These individual motivations are complemented by Hughes and a number of assistants who enable improvement through coaching and encouragement.
Hughes, a 2014 Heritage High School graduate and Brentwood studio owner, is in her fourth year leading the flourishing squad, which included just six members in 2013, eight members in 2014 and 12 members in 2016.
Her coaching formula appears to be fueling growth and success, as the individual members routinely transform into an entertaining and talented performing corps.
“We have a really special bond together,” said member Brinly Jones. “The years I have been on the team I have seen it get stronger and stronger. We are a sisterhood. We don’t see eye to eye on everything, but we always come to a consensus. When we are on stage, we can show the audience and all the judges that not only can we dance at a high level but we also have that bond and interaction.”
As the Patriots shine, Hughes and her assistants are quick to relish the success of the program; but the leaders never lose sight of the need for continued development in dance and beyond.
Hughes is quick to implement the techniques of a college team; the squads attend yearly camps; and both units will soon head to Southern California to compete for the first time with other highly regarded West Coast teams in the West Coast Elite Nationals.
“It will be a learning experience for everyone,” said Hughes of the event. “If you just stay in your comfort zone, you are never anything more than just that. You have to break out of that and be comfortable being uncomfortable with things. That is what makes you grow as a dancer and a person.”
As the teams continue to develop, the individual members say they cherish every moment of the experience.
“(Dance) is an escape, literally a release, a place you can get out of your own head and not focus on anything else but what your coach tells you,” said team member Emily Bustillos.
Teammate Liam Dougherty, the first boy in the program, agrees.
“I get lot of criticism for being a boy on the dance team, but dancing is a really good way to deal with all the stress that I get,” he said.
Hughes said she hopes to continue growing the program.
She encourages all interested students to try out for their high school dance teams, regardless of past dance experience.
Heritage will host team tryouts on May 12 through 14, from 3:45 to 5:45 p.m.
For more information, email Hughes at email@example.com.