The Oak Lawn Community High School dance team, just like any other athletic team, has had quite an interesting 2020-2021 season. After the restrictions surrounding social distancing and in-person practice were lifted in January, the team essentially only had three practices before the South Suburban Conference virtual meet took place. Despite that difficult situation, the Spartans took home fifth place.
It wasn’t easy. The team was thrilled to be able to get in some contact days this past summer when they could safely dance outdoors and start working with the new team members to gear up for competition season as they do each summer. However, they certainly missed many of the elements that help the team bond like a family such as traveling to overnight camps together, doing partnering skills and conditioning and the smaller things like hugging teammates on a rough day or seeing each other’s bright smiles at each practice.
“This year has taken such an emotional toll on coaches and their athletes, but we were grateful to spend some time dancing and laughing together to lighten the load of that emotional burden, even if only for an hour or two,” head coach Ryan Brandt said. “Unfortunately, our time together came to a halt just when we were getting started.”
“For months, we waited for a solid answer to the big question – will we even get to compete this year? Dance would likely be given an opportunity to compete safely and virtually through a video submission of our competitive routine, but in order to do so we needed that green light to practice and put together a routine! We got a glimmer of hope in October, but we were back to no contact days before you could count to eight. While our end goal was to have the chance to dance and perform this year, our main priority was the health and safety of our dancers. The most important thing that we could do as coaches was to reassure them that no matter how our season ends up, we will continue to check in on them virtually, give them opportunities to share with us and just be a support system through all of this.”
In late January, some restrictions were finally lifted, and the team was given solid virtual competition dates for February. The team did its best to use its three practice days to prepare.
“We were back in the studio for the first time in what seemed like forever for long hours putting together a routine, cramming choreography, rush ordering costumes and having discussions on how to show emotion while dancing with a mask on,” Brandt said. “The challenges were tough to say the least. In order to safely practice and perform this routine, dancers had to push through hours of straight cardio work in their masks, had to maintain 6 feet of distance at all times while moving through their routine and we were not able to make any physical contact or have any partnering throughout the routine.”
“Even without some of the elements that help take our routine to a more competitive level, we were super happy with the work that these ladies put in, their dedication and perseverance through a difficult year and ultimately with the product we submitted for our conference and the Illinois High School Association Sectional performances.”
With the rush and stress of this competition season coming to an end, the team was lucky to be able to host a Dance and Cheer Showcase in the Spartan Gymnasium organized by Athletic Director Jeremey Cryan. On a typical senior night, the senior dancers would be announced and walk across the gym floor during halftime at a home basketball game. This year was far more special. They were able to safely host an intimate event with two parents or guests per dancer/cheerleader, perform their competition routines for them, and have a moment to stand in front of them and talk about the amazing young ladies that have grown before our eyes over the last four years.
“As coaches, we know how rare it is to find that dedication in your athletes,” Brandt said. “Aaliyah Cook-Hill, Annette Macias, and Taylor Fabian have devoted four years to a demanding, competitive varsity sport on top of absolutely crushing their academics, being inducted into National Honor Society, and staying on High Honor Roll for four consecutive years. All three of them have been accepted into their top choice schools for college and we could not be prouder to call them ours.”
The dance team will continue dancing through March and April in preparation for performances at all home football games. Interested fans can catch the team on the field during halftime. Fans can use the link below to check out the 2021 competition routine.