TAKING THE FLOOR The Marquesas perform at the Northern California state Dance Classic

Story and photos by Ilena Peng

It was only a little past 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, but the MVHS gym lobby was already adorned with purple and gold star shaped balloons. Tables with food lined the sides of the room as spectators slipped in and out of the double doors. On Feb. 10, the Marquesas were competing at the United Spirit Association's Northern California State Dance Classic for the chance to have their routines qualify for the USA Dance Nationals from March 30 to 31 in Anaheim, Calif. By the end of the day, the Marquesas had performed five routines, with the competition finally coming to a close at around 5:30 p.m.

9:58 a.m.

The Marquesas huddled together, their purple team jackets matching the bleachers they were sitting on. Their team mascots, eggs named Bob and baby Bob, sat in their laps as they cheered on the soloists from MVHS. The soloists were competing to be a part of the top 10 who would perform their routines again at the end of the evening. Senior and captain Kristin Li performed her solo titled “Forgiven” to the song “Liar” by LEON, which tells the story of someone who found out their significant other is cheating on them.

“If you listen to the lyrics, it really has a powerful message. It’s like a journey of finding out that someone lied to you and then just not trusting the person and then in the end forgiving them eventually.”

Senior Kristin Li

The two sides of the gym were labeled “Side A” and “Side B” — competitors perform facing alternate sides. Since senior and captain Tiffany Liu performed immediately after Li, the Marquesas shuffled around to the other side of the gym. Wearing a simple black outfit, Liu performed to “Half light” by BANNERS.

Before the football season when Liu began working on her solo, the music and choreography was entirely different. But she felt that the solo didn’t really match her personality. Upon hearing “Half Light” on Instagram and watching another girl perform to it, she worked with her choreographer to create this routine.

“I really wanted to do well and usually my mom comes to all my dances but she’s in Taiwan so she hasn’t been coming. I kind of wanted to do it for her.”

Senior Tiffany Liu

Sophomore and officer Jennifer Huang was the last of MVHS’ soloists, performing a solo to the song “Helium” by Sia. Among the many components of her routine was an aerial, which is essentially a cartwheel that is performed without her hands touching the ground.

After Huang’s performance, the Marquesas shuffled out of the gym, congratulating the soloists and preparing for their next routine.

11:33 a.m.

The Marquesas’ performance schedule was a bit skewed — “TRNSTTR” was the only routine the Marquesas performed before lunch, and the remaining performances all occurred afterwards. The routine placed second in the intermediate dance division, qualifying for championships at Nationals.

11: 50 a.m.

As dancers from other schools scattered around the rally court to eat their lunches at noon, the Marquesas sat in a circle outside the wrestling room. P.E. dance teacher and Marquesas coach Dasha Plaza joined the dancers as they ate the food, some of which was donated by local restaurants and some of which their parents had cooked.

Afterwards, they returned to get ready for the remainder of their performances, stopping to take a selfie or two along the way. Li says that competing at MVHS is nice, since the team doesn’t have to worry about things like navigating another school’s campus.

“At other schools, were like searching for the locker rooms and stuff,” Li said. “And I think MVHS has really nice facilities. Dance team always says it’s really funny because the lights at MVHS are really bright and then at other schools it’s dark, so when we’re at MVHS, it doesn’t feel like a competition.”

12:35 p.m.

The top ten soloists who will be performing their solos a second time, are announced — Li, Liu and Huang are all part of the top 10.

1:48 p.m.

The Marquesas perform their hip hop routine, “Still Feelin’ It.” The upbeat routine placed third in the medium hip hop division and qualified for opens at Nationals.

2:23 p.m.

The Marquesas perform their routine “Someone Who Can Dance,” which placed second in the small jazz category and also qualified for championships at Nationals.

Half an hour later, the Marquesas take the floor again to perform their kick routine to Shakira’s “Dare.” The routine, with its changing formations and long kick lines, placed first in the kick division, qualifying for championships at Nationals.

3:56 p.m.

As their last group performance of the day, the Marquesas perform “All We Do,” a small lyrical routine set to Oh Wonder’s song of the same title. The routine placed second in the small lyrical division, also qualifying for championships at Nationals. Although the Northern California Dance Classic is the last regional competition for the dance team’s seniors, senior Jessica Kimm says that they don’t really think about how it’s the last one while they’re in the moment. Besides, they still have more competitions left in the season.

“It’s really tiring so definitely in the moment you're like ‘[I’m] so glad I’ll never have to do this again’ because you're sitting around the whole day waiting,” Kimm said. “You get really tired, especially after lunch. But I know I’ll miss it because you spend so much time with your teammates and everything.”

After changing into purple shorts, black and white baseball tees and white Vans, the Marquesas sit back down in the gym, ready to cheer on their soloists. After performing their solos, the soloists put on their dance team baseball tees as well and joined their teammates for the drill down.

The dance team starts their routines with military style commands, which they learned at a camp held by the United Spirit Association over the summer. With the intention of teaching focus and discipline, the drill down consists of an announcer calling out commands that the dancers must then follow. Kimm says that people refer to it as a more difficult ‘Simon says.’ As the announcer calls terms — “right pace, about pace, left pace,” and so on, the gym is silent. It’s intense enough that Kimm’s mom could barely watch as she progressed to the final round.

Kimm placed third during the drill down at the camp during the summer, and had a goal to place during the Northern California State Dance Classic as well. She says that to perform well during drill down, she has to tune out those around her.

“I get in this kind of mindset where I don't pay attention to anyone around me in case they mess up and it makes me mess up,” Kimm said. “The thing is you're surrounded by people and if someone messes up, you kind of question yourself like ‘did I mess up or did they mess up?’”

During the awards ceremony, the Marquesas sit in a circle, holding hands as they await their results. Following team tradition, they all stand up to applaud for the first place teams they had competed against. Along with the trophies they received for their group routines, it is announced that Huang placed 7th and Liu placed 4th. The last award of the evening is given to Li — the first place soloist. The Marquesas left the trophies they’d won on the ground, temporarily abandoning them as they gathered around Li in a group hug.

“It was crazy,” Li said. “I was so surprised because I worked really hard and at the first competition in the beginning of the season I got second so I had a goal for MVHS.”

Nearly eight hours after the competition had begun, the Marquesas were still full of energy. A parent brought over a cluster of balloons to the dancers as others whipped out phones and cameras. After many photos and teary hugs, the Marquesas stay for a bit longer, cleaning up and eating leftover food.

“We did really well and everyone was really happy afterwards — almost all of us were crying when we heard about our awards,” Liu said.

There’s only one more competition for the 2017-18 Marquesas on Feb. 24 before their competition at Nationals. When they arrived back at MVHS after the competition, it was just another day at school. And then they were back in the dance room, practicing for their next competition.


Photos by Ilena Peng

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