Westminster Christian Academy dance team finishes second at state meet
By: Warren Mayes
The Westminster Christian Academy dance team knows how to shake an arm and a leg.
The girls, under coach Brittany Hartloge, placed second overall in the recent Missouri High School Dance Team State Championship.
It was the fourth year in a row for the team to finish second overall. The girls placed first in the Hip Hop competition and second in Pom.
“This was by far the toughest state competition that we’ve had,” Hartloge said. “The competition this year was unreal. Other teams have seriously stepped up their dance technique, choreography, and creativity.”
The state competition is held once a year. The state competition is held in St. Louis and Kansas City. It rotates every other year. This year is was at the St. Charles Family Arena.
There were 12 girls on the team this year.
Hartloge said Westminster is part of the Missouri Dance Team Association.
“I, as the head coach, have to be a member of MDTA in order for our team to compete,” Hartloge said. “I have to take several online Missouri coaching tests each year in order for my team to compete. The team has to compete at least one other Missouri competition besides state. The team also has to place in at least one routine at that Missouri competition in order to qualify for state.”
This year, 93 dance teams competed at state. There are six divisions. These divisions are based on school size. Westminster competed in the 2A division, which consisted of 14 teams.
Judges take our top three scores and average them together. Whichever three teams have the highest average points, places in the top three. There are four judges who judge each routine. Each judge judges out of 100 total points.
“They then drop your lowest score and take your highest top three scores and then average them together to get your “pom” score and “hip hop” score,” Hartloge said.
There are three sessions of the competition. Each session is about five hours long. It takes that long because there are so many teams that compete.
“They are very efficient and the competition runs very smoothly,” Hartloge said. “There is a large group of people who work the state competition each year from MDTA and others who volunteer. They have inspections before each performance. The girls have many rules that they have to meet before they are allowed to perform. If any rule is violated, the team receives immediate deductions.”
The routines cannot be longer than 2 minutes, 15 seconds and they cannot be shorter than 2 minutes. If this rule is violated then the team will receive deductions. Each team can only compete two routines.
Hartloge uses professional choreographers to choreograph Westminster’s pom and hip hop routines.
“I do this because I want my team to compete at the highest and most professional level,” Hartloge said. “We have been so blessed to have worked with some amazing choreographers.”
Westminster took first in hip hop. The judges score on appearance, choreography, synchronization, group technique, communication/projection, and overall effect.
“The girls clearly won this category because they were the best performing team and they had the best choreography,” Hartloge said. “We had many, many tricks integrated into our routine. We had things such as head stands, hand stands, head springs, back hand springs, round off cartwheel to a toe touch. We also had a lot of visual pieces with levels and group work.
“Our music was a very fast and intense hip hop mix. The girls did an excellent job of communicating with the crowd while they danced.”
The communication is helped by “vocals” in both routines that Westminster competes in.
“Vocals are when the girls yell certain phrases or words while they are dancing,” Hartloge said. “This is used as a way to heighten projection, showmanship, and timing with the music.”
Westminster was second in pom. The judges score on appearance, choreography, technique/execution, synchronization, showmanship, and general effect.
“We’ve always placed in the top two in the pom category,” Hartloge said. “It is a traditional pom routine. The girls have to dance with poms in their hands and they have to be in their traditional pom uniform. All Missouri competitions have the same requirements about the type of choreography and technique that must be integrated into the routine in order for it to be considered pom.
“Typically the routines have very fast paced music with lots of sharp arm movements, jumps, leaps, and turns.”
The state competition ends a long year. The girls begin practices in July and practice until the end of February.
“We have practices five days a week for about three hours each day,” Hartloge said. “We do take a short hiatus in mid-October and the pick back up in November and we continue until the end of February. It is a very long season.
“We perform at both football and basketball games.”
Westminster’s team is well known in the area. Others seek the girls out to perform.
“This year we had some wonderful opportunities. We were invited to perform at a Maryville University men’s basketball game. We were invited to the Washington Basketball Tournament at Washington High School. We performed two nights at that tournament. We performed our jazz routine and pom routine.”
The dance team has been an activity at Westminster since the mid-1980s. It used to be called “drill team” and “poms.”
” The name was changed to the ‘Varsity Dance Team’ in 2002 and is now considered a sport,” said Hartloge, who also danced on the Varsity Dance Team at Westminster from 2002-2005.
Hartloge just completed her fourth year as head coach. She enjoys it immensely.
“It has been one of the best experiences of my life. I feel incredibly blessed every single day,” Hartloge said. “I love everything about coaching. The girls inspire me to be a better coach and dancer. They challenge me and they push me. I have learned so much about dance, choreography, technique, team work, conflict-resolution, relationships, and communication.”
Continuing to coach “this amazing dance team” is important to Hartloge.
“I cannot imagine my life without my girls and without this program. I hope to continue coaching for many, many years,” Hartloge said. “I want to help as many girls as I can become beautiful dancers and beautiful women of Christ. That is my calling as a coach. I firmly believe that I am helping my girls grow on and off the court. I challenge them in both dance and in their relationship with Jesus Christ.”
This year, there were three captains. The head captain was senior Grace Linton. The co-captains were senior Della Woodward and junior Cailyn McCarthy.
“I have the best captains. I delegate so many diverse tasks to them,” Hartloge said. “They always rise to the challenge and do their best. My team is so much more than just a group of girls who love to dance.
“I have the most incredible, passionate, loving, tender hearted, wonderful team. I feel so incredibly blessed to coach such an amazing team.”
Three seniors will graduate from the team. All of the other nine girls plan on returning.
“We have tryouts in early April, and I will add more newbies to the bunch,” Hartloge said. “I plan to have my team working on a pom routine, jazz routine, hip hop routine, and our annual Christmas routine. We’ll see which routines we end up taking to state.”