Cedar Heights JHS dance team heading to nationals

Members of the Cedar Heights Junior High School dance team will compete in Orlando, Fla. next month during the UDA nation- al dance championships. - Courtesy Photo
Members of the Cedar Heights Junior High School dance team will compete in Orlando, Fla. next month during the UDA nation- al dance championships.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

Cedar Heights Junior High School dance team members are busy preparing for national championship competition next month in Florida.

The 17-member dance team, coached by Lynelle Vandenbos, will complete the Universal Dance Association’s (UDA) National Dance Team Championships at the Walt Disney World Resort on Feb. 1-2 in Orlando, Fla. The team will compete in the jazz and high kick categories.

The national championship is administered by UDA, a division of Varsity Brands, Inc.

The event is the only national-level dance team championship that is endorsed by the National Federation of State High School Associations, the national service and administrative organization for high school athletics and fine arts programs in speech, debate, theater and music.

Last year, approximately 330 high school and all-star dance teams made the cut and competed at the National Dance Team Championship.

In 2013, there were more than 550 performances at the event. Dance teams compete in divisions based on team size and grade/age level and have the option to enter two of the following categories: jazz/dance, hip-hop, pom and high kick.

Each year, an estimated 10,000 spectators watch the competition broadcasted on ESPN2 and it will reach more than 90 million homes this year.

The team qualified for nationals in the summer at UDA summer camp by receiving a superior rating in their team routine and every member earned superior ribbons for every single routine (three routines each).

“We also had all six of our all-star representatives make the UDA all-star team,” said Vandenbos, a Bellevue resident.

According to Vandenbos, pom consists of quick movements, pom visuals, technical dance elements and high energy.

For jazz/dance, she will have a highly trained team with some of the most technically challenging choreography in the state.

“This category requires jazz dance technique and performance/attitude,” Vandenbos said.

High kick competition requires massive amounts of flexibility and control.

“Strong technique and precision timing are a necessity for a successful routine,” she said.

Tryouts were held at the end of May and the team rehearsed five hours three times a week for five hours starting the first week of summer break.

During the school year, the team practices on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and have one five-hour practice one Sunday a month. The team will wrap up their season in March.

Vandenbos said her team performs at sporting and community events, including a performance for the YWCA women's shelter in Seattle.

She said the girls have grown in their technique, team unity and maturity.

The team consists of 17 girls and one manager. They are team captains RyLee Altenburg, Michelle Dean, Sarah Gaskey and Carly Tsuruda; team members Sarah Gavern, Betty Paschke, Brook Goins, Ashley Hockaday, Emily Hornsby, Jasmine Wilson, Sydney Kendziora, Reina Randolph, Zanna Nelson, Gabby Slentz, Leah Duque, Camilla Kramer, Hanna David and team manager Hailey Westgard.

This month, the team scored first in several competitions during the Tahoma Invitational on Jan. 11. They took first in kick, dance and pom, while Sarah Gaskey was first in drill down.

Overall, according to Vanderbos, the team placed first in kick, second in jazz and fourth in pom for the highest scores overall in the competition.

“This is the first time any middle or junior high school has ever taken the overall award,” Vanderbos said. “I am so proud of the girls.”

The girls will complete Jan. 25 at Hazen High School.

Vanderbos, a South Kitsap High School graduate, has been dancing the majority of her life. She danced throughout school and college.

“I had my first choreography/coaching job at age 13 for the South Kitsap Youth Athletic Association cheerleaders,” she said.

Vanderbos specializes in contemporary/lyrical, jazz, hip hop, musical theatre and high kick.

“I have spent more than 10 years directing studio dance companies and competition teams, as well as judging the past three years,” she said. “I received several choreography awards and have a true passion for teaching, and the art of dance.”

Even though Vanderbos lives and works in Bellevue, the dance coach said she couldn’t pass up the opportunity of a “homecoming” of sorts to work with this dedicated and talented team. I commute from Bellevue to work with these wonderful girls and they are well worth the drive.”

“I had worked with about one-third of the girls currently on the team when I lived and taught at Academy of Dance,” Vandenbos said. “They were between the ages of 3-9 years old at the time.”


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