Old Rochester dance team prepares for state competition
The Old Rochester Regional High School Dance Team is putting in the work and putting in the hours to prepare for a regional dance competition in March.
On Wednesday, Dec. 21, members of the competitive dance team walked into the auditorium at Old Rochester Regional High School, dropped their backpacks on the ground and got ready for a two hour rehearsal — one of three they attend each week.
Normally, the dance team performs before school sporting events and holds a dance showcase in February. Their choreography, which combines different genres of dance — including what is currently popular on social media, is taught by Dance Team Coach Paige Hiller, who graduated from ORR in 2011.
She came back to her alma mater and restarted the dance team after the previous coach left. Now, she’s looking to push her dancers to another level.
“I think they have been looking for something a little more than just the games,” said Hiller.
This year, they’re preparing to join a competition held by the Massachusetts School Administrators Association, a statewide organization similar to the MIAA that hosts dance and cheerleading competitions.
Students in the ORR Dance Team will face competitors from “a few different towns,” said Dance Team Coach Amanda Armaretti, who explained that competitive dance hasn’t quite taken off yet in Massachusetts.
According to Hiller, some students at ORR don’t see dance as a “real sport,” and she hopes that competing on a state level can help change that.
“It definitely should qualify as a sport because it's just as much training, if not more,” added Dance Team Coach Amanda Armaretti, who graduated from ORR last year.
“It's hard, especially in high school, to keep them motivated because they walk around the halls with kids pretty much making fun of them for being on the team,” said Armaretti. “We tell them ‘this is for you, it's not for them.’”
For Hiller and Armaretti, who have been dancing since the ages of three and two respectively, dance offered a challenge, an escape and a boost of confidence.
“I loved the challenge, and it became my escape from things if I was having a bad day,” said Hiller. “The second I got to the studio, I was like a totally different person.
Dance Team Captain Keelin Lienkam, 16, joined the team in 2020 and said that even though the team is working harder than it ever has before, she still has fun.
“I love the environment and the family aspect of how close we are,” she said.
And during the team’s Wednesday rehearsal, they refreshed themselves on previous years’ dances and had a great time doing it.
They encouraged each other during warm-ups and stretches, and more experienced dancers helped younger ones with moves they haven’t yet learned.
“It sounds cliche, but if you're having fun, that's all that matters,” said Armaretti.
The dance team’s showcase will be on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Old Rochester Regional High School auditorium. Tickets can be purchased at the door, they are $5 for students, $10 for adults.