CARLSBAD — Akin to the New York Yankees and 1960s and 70s UCLA Bruins, the Carlsbad High School Lancer Dancers are the cream of the crop for high school dance teams.
The program owns 10 national championships in the past 15 years in several competitions laying claim to its own dynasty. Up next, the team aims capture another title Jan. 29 to Jan. 31 in Orlando, Fla., at the Universal Dance Association’s National Dance Team Competition. The event is televised on ESPN.
Despite missing out on a title the last four years at the NDTC, the Lancer Dancers finished no lower than fifth.
In addition, the CHS Xcalibur dance team will also travel to Florida in hopes of taking the crown in the JV division.
The Lancer Dancers, who compete in the varsity division, perform in jazz and hip-hop, while the Xcalibur’s dance to jazz and pom (with traditional pom-poms), or as senior captain Boston Anderson said, “I call it cheer-dance on steroids.”
For the Lancer Dancers, though, head coach and alumna Laura Nares said she expects another top performance despite a youthful squad. She said about eight of the 15 dancers are newcomers, thus practice has centered on the mental aspect as much as the physical.
“It’s a lot to live up to for the newcomers and the returners,” Nares said. “About half the team has never been before. So I have been taking a different approach. I have the girls with experience talk about it. We also watch a lot of videos of the competition. I see them doing the absolute best than we’ve ever done before.”
Although the infusion of new talent provides a challenge, Nares said her senior leaders are bringing along the rookies. The squad also practices four times per week, which allows the younger girls to continue to improve, while the team gets ready for the competition.
But the girls won’t go into the competition untested, as both squads will perform their national routines on Jan. 23 at the high school in their annual Friends and Family Preview.
“We learned our dances a few months ago and now are perfecting them,” Nares added. “It’s like our send off. Anyone from the public (can come).”
While the pressure is on, Nares said her efforts focus on her club and not the hundreds of other teams looking to dethroning the champs. Part of it, she added, is the humble attitude of the girls who represent the city and school with class on and off the stage.
Lancer Dancer senior captain Nicole Nendrala, meanwhile, said she and the upperclassmen have focused on being calm with a clear state of mind. She added less stress can equate into a better performance, which will be needed to capture a title.
A four-year varsity veteran, Nendrala aims to add another national title to her resume, but is more concerned with putting out the best dance possible.
“I think it would mean a lot, but mostly we are focusing on being our best,” she added. “We are just trying to beat what we’ve done in the past.”
As for the Xcalibur club, coaches and alumnae Kaitlin Mazzocco and Brooklyn Anderson are busy prepping their squad for the intense competition.
Mazzocco, who took over head-coaching duties this year, said focus is key for the girls to put their best foot forward.
The 17-member team practices twice per week, although their workouts began in June in preparation for July’s qualification. Once the Xcalibur’s punched their ticket, the girls work out twice a week including five practices during the holiday break.
“We also take about their personal goals and how the portray themselves,” Mazzocco said. “We have a really good program for this year, good coaching staff and good girls. I’m not as worried as I thought I would be because we have really good girls.”
Boston Anderson, meanwhile, said experience is critical in brining along the newcomers who have yet experienced the biggest stage of high school dance.
Anderson, who will make her fourth trip to nationals, said although the competition is intense and practices are grueling, the hard work put in is worthy of the experience.
“I think we have bonded more than we ever have,” Anderson said. “We work very, very hard and sweating. It’s a commitment, but it’s totally, 100 percent worth it.”
Both programs, meanwhile, have also been hard at work raising funds for the trip. Since neither is funding by the school or the school district, it is up to each squad to come up with the money.
The Xcalibur team, however, was the recipient of a $5,190 grant from the city of Carlsbad during a city council meeting last month. Despite the grant, both programs are still searching for donors.
Mazzocco said fundraising is a year-round effort, which typically begins in the spring.
“We just ask local businesses to sponsor us, we do kids camps, mother-daughter tea,” she added.
To donate to the Lancer Dancers, visit the team’s website at www.lancerdancers.com. To assist with the Xcalibur Dance Team, mail checks to 2911 Lancaster Rd., Carlsbad, CA 92010. Donations are tax deductible.
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.