Woodland dancers cap off stellar season

Jennifer Skibek spins with the dance team at a Woodland pep rally.

BEACON FALLS — The Woodland dance team just completed another fantastic season, yet it seems like nobody noticed—again.
But it’s time to take notice because the Hawks once again placed second at the state competition Saturday at Hamden High after winning four championships throughout the season.

The dance team specializes in kick line and jazz performances and has them both down to a science. In three competitions before states last weekend, the Hawks placed first in kick line all three times and won in jazz once. They didn’t finish lower than fourth in any competition this season.

The season culminated at Saturday’s state competition where Woodland narrowly lost out to Hamden by 11 points in kick line and placed fourth in jazz.

Though a second-place performance at a state competition is nothing to shake a stick at, the 19-member squad under head coach Michele LoRusso and assistant Kim Fallon was a little disappointed.

“We were so close,” senior Rachel Noto said. “It was tough.”

“It was a major letdown to lose,” senior Jen Skibek agreed. “But we put up a fight against a very good team.”

Even with the disappointment, the team remains proud of its performance at the state competition and throughout the season.

“I was very pleased with our performances at states,” senior Avery Gibson said. “They were the best we had ever preformed our routines. The improvement from the forming of the team in May ‘til Saturday is amazing. We left our hearts on that stage.”

“I think the team’s performance was terrific,” Skibek agreed. “As a group, we danced the best we ever had at states this year.”

Another second-place showing at the state competition added more hardware to one of the most impressive trophy cases at school and shows the amount of hard work put in over the years by the dancers.

“You have to push yourself really hard and stretch every day,” Noto said. “You can be good at the first competition but you can’t suffer through the next three. You have to show them you’re getting better.”

“There are so many little details that need to be done,” junior Taylor Cummings said. “You’re performing for 2 minutes and 15 seconds and while dancing you have to keep a smile on your face, you have to make it fun to watch, you have to make it energetic, you have to know your counts, you have to know where everyone else is. It’s not easy.”

With all the work they put in—including anywhere from six to 15 hours a week of practice and grueling choreography sessions in the fall—the dancers can’t help but be a little disappointed that they get overlooked as a varsity sport at Woodland.

“It’s very disappointing that people are so closed-minded to competitive dancing,” Gibson said. “Just because there is no ball involved doesn’t mean it’s not a sport. And for anyone who says it isn’t, I’d like to see them attempt to do what we do.”

“It bothers me a lot, actually,” junior Nicole Ciaramella said. “Dancers work very hard, if not harder than other athletes and we do things that many people couldn’t do it they tried. It’s ridiculous and I’d like to see them try it.”

Cummings conceded that there are some people who recognize what the team does, but she’d like to see more support for the dancers.

“It’s not like we don’t get credit, but we don’t get as much as we put into it,” Cummings said. “We put a lot of effort into it and I wish that people would support us at a competition. It’s enough to be at a basketball game and cheer for us but at a competition it’s really what we’re looking for.”

But where there might be a lack of overwhelming support outside the team, the dancers make up for it within their ranks.

“Dance team lasts August through March,” Skibek said. “We seem to be with each other 24/7 throughout the season.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t some occasional problems—err, wardrobe malfunctions.

“It was the very first football game and we had to wear black yoga pants,” Cummings recalled. “Nikki comes in and sits down and her pants are like high waters. We were all laughing and taking pictures of her without her knowing. She had them over her shoes to try to stretch them out. She made her mom go buy new pants for her. She learned her lesson.”

“I’m a tall girl!” Ciaramella said in defense. “I can’t help it. A lot of my competition costumes at my studio don’t fit my legs either and I have to add material to almost all of them.”

Bet that’s a conundrum only faced on one of Woodland’s most successful squads—the dance team.