Since publishing this article, the dance team has canceled their performance. However, MOR feels this is an important story to share about who they are and what they do as a team.
With the Oyster River High School’s (ORHS) Dance Team’s upcoming performance on Friday, October 14th, at the Senior Night game for boys’ varsity soccer, nerves and excitement from the team are high. But what exactly goes into preparing for these performances?
Going into the dance team’s second year at ORHS, the current members have a better feel for the ways they need to prepare to make sure their performances are their best. One issue they faced last year was the pre-show anxiety which goes along with performing for a large crowd, but along with help from a member of the UNH dance team, the ORHS members are able to rely on each other for Friday’s performance.
The dance team has done two other performances so far this year; one at a boys’ reserve soccer game, and one at the school pep rally on September 30th. Siena Schaier (’24), the captain of the dance team, explained, “First we did a reserve soccer game, which we treated as a dress rehearsal for the pep rally, and then we did the pep rally, which was probably the biggest performance we’ve ever done…most of the school was there, so it was a lot of people, but the varsity boys’ soccer game will be similar, so it was a good experience to have before this upcoming performance.”
An issue which has occurred for the team is dealing with the nerves which go hand-in-hand with performing. Abby Trojan (’25), a current member of the dance team, noted that nerves were a large issue last year, but something that they’ve been able to work on as a team. “Some people did not feel good [before performances], and that did cause a member to suddenly quit the team last year. It is a big thing performing for the entire school, but I think [dealing with nerves] has been our main improvement as a team,” said Trojan.
Schaier, along with her co-captain, Grace Kasper (’25), have been a key part in reducing those pre-performance nerves for the team. “[Before each performance] Grace and I give a little pep talk to the team, reminding them that they’re going to do amazing, and that the performance will be great. We usually try to hype everybody up right before, and then afterwards we make sure to congratulate each other to keep the positive energy.”
Throughout the past year as the dance team has been developing, another challenging part of the process was working out the kinks and technical issues along the way.
Cathi Stetson, a teacher at ORHS and the dance team’s advisor, feels that these difficulties are all part of the process, but that most of them have been worked out at this point. “I think we worked out a lot of those kinks last year. Like one time I hit the music and it was so loud, but then one time was too low, you know, it was an adjustment, but I think we’ve worked out all those little kinks.”
Remaining positive and having a good dynamic between the team members is a huge contributor to the outcome of a performance. An aspect which maintains that positive energy and connection is team bonding. This is a huge portion of the dance teams’ overall success, as dance is such a collaborative sport both mentally and physically, especially when part of a team.
Before performances, the team usually does a spaghetti dinner, or ‘spag,’ just like any other sports team would, including team bonding exercises and being able to simply spend quality time together. Schaier said, “it definitely helps us to all feel [comfortable] together, and it helps make us feel like a family. It shows in our performances, because we all dance better when we know that the rest of our family is hyping us up and making us feel good.”
This is something that Stetson noticed as well, stating, “they’re a very tight group, and they also have a common goal. I think that just like any other team, spending that time together and having that common goal helps bring them together within their sport and performances.”
Alexis Silvestri, a senior at UNH who has been working with the ORHS dance team, feels there has been a notable shift in the team dynamic from the beginning of the team to now. “When I first started last year, everyone was super shy. No one really like spoke at practice. It was just like everyone was just there. Now I feel like everyone’s more comfortable. They’re more comfortable around me and the rest of the team…you can really tell with any team that the performance quality is lower when the team members don’t have a connection,” said Silvestri.
Along with connection comes the energy of a team. “The adrenaline [of the performance] normally helps because something that we focus on a lot is just making sure that the energy is up, and that everyone is hyped for the event we’re performing at. It helps keep everyone smiling and excited for what’s happening next,” said Trojan.
Overall, the main piece of the team’s performance is the dance routine itself. Silvestri touched on the process of creating and that routine. “I let the girls pick up the songs that they want to dance to, and then I come up with routines that I feel are appropriate for their level. After the routines are done, I go to practices and help them clean them and help to prepare them to dance in front of the school.”
Being the choreographer for the ORHS team, it took a bit of adjustment to navigate what they wanted compared to the choreography which Silvestri was used to on the UNH team, which she has been a part of since her sophomore year. “It’s important that they voice their opinions and give coaches advice because sometimes it’s hard…I haven’t been in high school for five years it’s hard for me to distinguish what they want and what’s different from my college team,” said Silvestri.
Once the routine is finalized, it’s important for the team to experience performing the routine in different conditions so they’re prepared for a wide range of performance settings.
This is something Megan Zehetner (’24), a current member of the dance team, felt was important to recognize. “When performing [in different settings], you have to prepare for the differences…[for example,] the gym is a lot smaller than the turf, so you’d have to work on spacing and formations. Or during the soccer season we practice on the softball fields like grass area, so that we can get the feel of how the grass feels in relation to the turf. And then when we perform on the basketball court, we like to practice in the MPR and auditorium,” said Zehetner. This is important so they team can adjust parts of their performances to make it the most comfortable and have the best flow for the surface they’re performing on.
This upcoming performance is very exciting for the dance team, being the first major performance of the year aside from the pep rally. Schaier, who is pumped for this performance, said, “I’m just so exciting to be leading this amazing team. We’ve all worked so hard that I know [the performance] will go great, and it’s going to be so fun for everyone involved, including the audience.”
To see the dance team’s high energy and enthusiasm in person, go support them by attending their upcoming performance at the boys’ varsity soccer game on Friday, October 14th!
– Sarah Laliberte