The Portage High School dance team is starting the new school year off with a new coach, a smaller team, and high hopes. This school year the PHS dance team in now under new coach Ryan O’Dell. O’Dell is an english teacher and color/flag guard coach for the high school.
This year the team is down to 10 girls. A pretty small team compared to last years team of 16 girls. With a small team the girls and coaches hope to have strong and clean performances along with a great bond.
Along with O’Dell former dancer from the PHS dance team, Shelby Sutphin is the assistant coach and choreographer. Sutphin was a dancer on the team all four years at the high school as well as she is a dancer on Valparaiso University's dance team. Before dancing competitively on the PHS dance team Sutphin dance at Civic Dance Center. She has a lot of dance background and since she danced with some girls on the current team she knows how to help them become the best they can be.
The team was recently cut from the athletics program, and was held to believe there was just not going to be a dance team. But, through determination of the dancers and students, the dance team is now a club, and will still be able to letter and perform at home football games.
The girls hope that through practice and determination they will be able to perform during basketball games. However, that call is up to Kelly Bermius, the athletic coach from at PHS, who could not currently be reached to comment on the subject.
Senior student and Dancer, Maddie Aldrich was one of the girls to first bring attention to the fact that there might not be a dance team at the high school. Back in May the dance team was told that due to problems with the team for the 2016-2017 season that Coach Bermius has decided to pull the dance team. This left the girls devastated and heart broken. However, Aldrich, who was 3 year dancer and caption, thought this was unfair and decided to fight for the team.
After weeks spent in meetings and talks, the team was cut from the athletic department and was given to the clubs and groups. This was a bit of a set back since now the team does not get athletic funding but Aldrich said that they would take all they could get.
Now through fundraising and the money left over from previous season the dance team is working harder than ever to cover costs and to show that even through set backs they will thrive.
The girls of the Portage Dance Team are currently in a dance camp training and learning routines for the games. With the help of the coaches the team is confident they will be better than they ever have been and are ready to wow the crowds.
“O’Dell and Shelby are just so nice and patient, it really does help a lot.” said Senior, Dedj Thames.
Senior Nichole Bodo, a first year dance team member, says that she feels that everyone is going to be working very well together already.
“The coaches seem and are very nice and kind,” Bodo added, “I can already see how well the season is going to go based on how we’ve been working together.”
This is Thames first year on the team and she said is more than excited to be apart of the team, even through the ups and downs.
“I know walking into this season I was going to leave with 9 great friends, I couldn’t be happier to be apart of this team.” Thames said.
However, the dance team does face some troubles along the way. Since the team is only performing at football games this means the girls have little time to practice and perfect their routines. There’s about a week between performances so the girls will be performing a new dance every week or every game. With this, the girls have to work extremely hard to perfect the dances.
During the summer the team has gotten together to learn the dances so that once the school year officially starts they can work on perfecting the routines rather than learning them. This gives the girls time to practice and to bond with teammates. Bonding with teammates is one of the most important aspects of being on a team. The girls have to become comfortable around each other as well as respect each other. They do this by team bonding such as going out to eat before games or even just having a pool party to get familiar with all the girls.
Aldrich said that she is so excited for the season and can not wait to bond with the girls.
“We’ve had a great camp so far from bonding to learning all the routines.” Aldrich said. “ On top of it all the coaches challenge us to be the best we can be and are just so very supportive.”
Currently there are no captions on the team but they hope to figure out who they those captions will be by the beginning of the year. With being a caption comes tremendous responsibility. The caption is a leader of the team and helps out when needed. Not only that, but a caption is someone that the girls feel comfortable talking to and are able to come to if they need help with anything. Since the dance team is a varsity team only anyone through grades 9-12 can join or tryout. Beyond this, the caption position is open to a girl of any grade; it is just all up to the coaches.
Through setbacks and new adjustments the team has a lot of work cut out for them but the girls and coaches are all hopeful that they will be better than ever. The team's first performance will line up with the football teams first official home football game, where the girls will be performing during after time.