Capital dance team takes two championships

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Capital dance team takes two championships
CHS dance team

Not everyone will look back fondly on the 2020-21 school year — but the Capital High School Cougarettes dance team members certainly will. With both a national and a state championship under their belts, the 2020-21 season was one of the best in team history.

Training to become state and national champions during a worldwide pandemic brought a host of unique challenges. The dancers trained for 12 months leading up to this year’s competitions. Many practices took place via Zoom. Dancers also trained individually using prescribed workouts and videos. Occasionally, team members met in small groups. They rarely got the opportunity to practice together as a team.

“When we would have Zoom practices it was kind of complicated because not a lot of girls have a lot of room in their house,” said Capital 12th grader Eva Rodriguez. “It was also kind of hard on Zoom because sometimes when our coach was counting, the internet would be a little laggy and not all of us would be on time exactly.”

During the rare opportunities the team did meet live, they got creative finding places to meet outdoors where they had space to dance and socially distance. “I remember practicing on the asphalt at Hansen Elementary,” said Capital 12th-grader Andrea Pham. “Those were the opportunities we used to learn the routine and to synchronize together.”

For home practices, the dancers incorporated more ballet techniques than they had in previous years. “Practicing ballet requires a little less space,” Rodriguez said. “In drill we do use some elements of ballet, but they are kind of adapted to be more jazzy.”

In addition to technique and coordination, members of a successful dance team need strength and stamina. Individually, the dancers did extra cardiovascular exercises this year and focused on building lower body strength.

“It was all up to personal motivation I guess,” Rodriguez said. “Our coaches provided us with plenty of videos of workouts or just technique things to stay in shape and stay well-practiced, but they didn’t necessarily make us do these things every day. It was just kind of up to us to manage ourselves.”

It was that heart — the passion and perseverance of each team member — that led to such a successful year, said Head Coach Jaci Gruhn. “The hardest thing was not knowing and pushing through: saying to ourselves, we may not dance in front of people, we may not have a competition season, but I am here, on this Zoom or outdoor practice because I love this team.”

“Our team is special because I truly believe that the athletes on our team love our team,” Gruhn said. “We believe encouragement is a difference-maker. We have high expectations for our athletes and we make no apologies for it. We have a special bond because we go through so much together. There is nothing better in this world than watching athletes push each other through the hard days. Because on the other side of hard days, is greatness.”


Photo provided by Capital Cougarettes Dance Team.