NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck High School dance team fed off the energy of one of its newest members this season.
The team recently wrapped up its season, which was the first for sophomore Alana Alves, 16, who has Downs Syndrome.
“She is very energetic and very happy. She was always willing to try what we put out there for her. She loved it,” head coach Donna Gomes said.
Toni Alves, Alana’s mother, said that Alana tried out for the team on the recommendation of Gomes.
“Donna saw my daughter dance at a dance academy and inquired about her and really encouraged me to have her try out,” Alves said. “She stood behind her 100 percent the whole year.”
Toni Alves said once her daughter joined the team, she had her heart set on doing a particular routine.
“My daughter, since day one, kept saying ‘can we do [a song from the Disney movie] Frozen?’ Every week during practice she would ask if they were doing ‘Frozen.’ When she has something in her mind she won’t let go of it,” Alves said.
Gomes said the team was more than happy to accommodate their new teammate’s love of the movie.
“They wanted to do a ‘Frozen’ number with her because it’s what she wanted. They embraced that very well,” Gomes said.
Toni Alves said her daughter missed portions of the season due to being sick, but made up the time she missed and learned the routines.
“She was able to learn one of the dances in a day,” she said. “With the combination of my daughter being independent and strong willed and the coach being supportive, it was a great experience.”
Alana’s determination and passion didn’t go unnoticed by her teammates.
“First off, let me say I absolutely adore Alana. She is so sweet with a sassy personality, she pushes herself to do everything we do even if we make it difficult. She is truly incredible. Phenomenal even. I truly love having her on the team, as I have formed a true bond with her,” co-captain Emily Cronin said.
Co-captain Milyani Roman echoed Cronin’s sentiments.
“She’s such a great dancer. She keeps up, she’s always on beat and she has the best dance moves of us all. When we preformed ‘Frozen’ at the basketball games, she stunned us all with her split. We all appreciate her moves on the team. She is such a character, everyone on the team loves her,” Roman said.
The team supported Alana on and off the court. She celebrated her 16th birthday in February and her teammates were all at the party.
“Everyone came. They made her feel like a part of the team,” Toni Alves said.
The support went both ways.
When four of the members of the dance team performed in Post University’s production of “Chicago” this year, Alana was there to cheer them on.
“Alana came out to support them and brought them flowers. She takes pride in the dance team and she was happy for the other girls and supported them,” Gomes said.
Toni Alves said her daughter plans on trying out for the team next year. Regardless of whether she makes it, the team has already had a huge impact on her life.
“It has been a positive thing,” Toni Alves said. “It has been life-changing to have my daughter be a part of it.”