It’s taken months of practice, hours of dedicated work, and one amazing performance to get here, but this weekend, Braintree High School’s Varsity Dance Team will compete at the National Championship competition in Florida.
Although other teams have qualified numerous times, this will only be the second time Coach Jamie Hale has taken a team to the Nationals. Hale took the first group in 2007, when her now-seniors were in 8th grade.
Even though this is her second time around bringing a team to the top dance competition in the nation, the experience will be very different, Hale said.
“What we’re going to now is a higher level of competition,” she said. “We only take the right team. We typically get this [invitation] every year, but I only take a team that is dedicated and determined, because it is so much work. It has to be their first priority next to academics.”
With these 20 girls, consisting of captains Olivia DiBona, Siena McHugh, Stephanie Fitopoulos (seniors); seniors Abby Moore, Liana MacDonald, juniors Ashley Boyle, Emily Helbig, Jennifer Hrebenak, Rae Lynch, Amanda McCormack, Erin Moriarty, Alison Page, Rose Thackeray; sophomores Angela Cataldo, Nicole Coloma, Alex Dean, Claudia McHugh, Megan McCarthy; and freshman Emily DiGiusto, Jordan Nashawaty, Danielle Tressler, and Shae Vartanian; Hale knew she had the right bunch.
“With this team and this group of parents that is so helpful with fund-raising, that whole package is what made me decide that this is the team to bring,” Hale said. “And also technically their dance ability is above and beyond, and they keep getting better and better.”
Hale is perhaps so equipped to handle the team because she recalls being a member herself.
Hale’s mother, Patty Hale, founded the Varsity Dance Team while teaching pre-school in Braintree Public Schools.
After she coached for over 30 years, Patty passed the gauntlet on to her daughter, who started the JV Dance program and took over the varsity team coaching.
“It’s in our blood,” she said.
Like her mother, Hale works for a local school, and is currently a school psychologist. Even though dance is a side hobby for her, “It’s been a huge part of my life,” she said. “I danced on the dance team in high school for my mom, then I went on to UMass Amherst and was on the cheerleading team there, and started coaching while I was still in college.”
All that experience prepped Hale to lead the kids to the Universal Dance Association competition at Emmanuel College this past year, where the kids won a bid to nationals.
To prep for nationals, they competed elsewhere as well, doing well at the Bay State League in the fall, and then placing first in State Championships.
“The competition is pretty intense, and the training is very rigorous. Training for nationals we have been practicing almost every day. At nationals in Orlando we will be competing against 45 teams are in our division,” Hale said.
But that hard work hasn’t only been practicing, it’s also been the fund-raising.
Between the 22 girls on the team and four coaches – including Hale and her Assistant Coach Lindsay Coleman, it will cost around $25,000. The parents coming down will also have to pay their way.
The girls did a “Wamp this Way” fund-raiser, where a dancer cutout was placed on people’s lawns for a fee and passed on from house to house.
The girls also hosted two fun nights for elementary school girls, and did an iPad 2 raffle with an iPad donated from Jay Cashman construction company.
“We have done a pretty good job of fund-raising. By no means have we hit the mark, but we made a decent dent,” Hale said.
With the competition now just days away, Hale keeps reminding the girls of one important thing: “That hard work will pay off. I just keep telling my girls, I’m looking at them and I want them to just think of this opportunity as something that not every dancer in high school gets,” Hale said. “I want them to enjoy every minute of it and realize that everything they are doing, and this determination and enthusiasm, is going to pay off.”