OCEANSIDE — This is the first year that El Camino High School has a dance team, and coach Natalie Daniels took the team to nationals.
Daniels said she started the team to fill a need that she saw.
“It’s an important component for kids be a part of something,” Daniels said. “Some of the girls wouldn’t have found a place to belong at school without being part of the team.”
The competition dance team is part of the school spirit squad. The song leader division the team competed in is a high-energy mix of cheerleading and jazz dance.
“There are turns, kicks, leaps and cheer motion,” Daniels said.
Girls audition to be part of the team.
Some girls came in with years of dance experience, others on the team had never been in a dance studio.
Daniels said it was determination, focus and team unity that pulled the first year team through to nationals.
“They pulled each other up,” Daniels said.
On the road to nationals the team practiced twice a week, then doubled the number of weekly practices as the season progressed.
Due to limited equipment and space, the team practiced in the dance room, outside or where ever they could find space.
Practice sessions covered jumps, leaps, facial expressions, arm movements and team building.
The team also held fundraisers to pay for team uniforms, equipment and travel. As a first-year team they started from scratch.
“From day one we were working hard,” Daniels said.
Throughout the semester the team performed at football games and pep rallies.
A professional choreographer put together the performance that the team executed and perfected in preliminary competitions leading up to the regional qualifier, and then nationals.
At United Spirit Association national competition in Anaheim, 200 schools from across the country competed.
“It was a huge event with dance teams and cheer teams from all over,” Daniels said.
Competition was held over three days, with the top 35 teams staying on to compete in finals the last day.
Fifth place was a major win for the first year team.
“It was a great year,” Daniels said. “It was incredible to be in fifth place, when we didn’t exist a year ago. We were able to have a very successful year in a variety of different ways.”
This year Daniels is working on a grant to fund a modular classroom that will serve as a designated dance studio for the team.