Getting to know the 2023-2024 dance team

Getting to know the 2023-2024 dance team
Anne-Sophie Lucky
Anne-Sophie Lucky

Anne-Sophie Lucky, freshman, has been consistently dancing since seventh grade. It took her time to get used to the new sport, but she has found joy in it as she progressed.

“I was really stressed out because I saw how good other people could be,” Lucky said. “But it was really a big motivator to become a better version of myself.”

Lucky was on a middle school dance team, and it helped her prepare for being in a team-setting. She has quickly enjoyed the team camaraderie.

“[I love my] friends because I see them so often,” Lucky said. “I see them for many hours a week. I feel like I can trust them more than anyone else.”

With it her being her freshman year, there were immediate changes to her role on the dance team.

“[The high school team] definitely was a step up from my old team because everything was a lot more quick moving,” Lucky said. “You had to learn routines in a couple of weeks and unlike my old team, where we got months, it was definitely a big adjustment for just the pace and the things you have to do.”

On the dance team’s show routine, Lucky plays the role of the deer. Anne-Sophie enjoys the imagination when it comes to the show routine.

“It feels like we’re giving the viewers the chance to use their imagination in a sort of way because since we’re doing after Aurora [falls] asleep, it just gives you the opportunity to think deeper about something that I would have never really thought of,” Lucky said. “I don’t [know] what she dreams about when she’s asleep. I was always thinking about the outside world.”

For the future, Lucky wants to keep dancing for the dance team all throughout high school.

“I definitely want to work on my flexibility for sure, because I think that could definitely help with many routines and sorts of tricks,” Lucky said. “I also want to work on the power I have behind when I dance, like how hard I hit movements and [I] want [to work on] just being more graceful.”

Stella Gorsuch
Stella Gorsuch

Starting to dance at a ballet studio, Stella Gorsuch, senior, has been an avid dancer since she was in fourth grade.

“I really liked it,” Gorsuch said. “I didn’t really know anyone. [But] when I went into the ballet studio, I met a lot of friends there. My sister was also dancing at the time. She helped introduce other people to me. I [always] remember the team bonding when I was little and I grew up with those friends and still have them to this day.”

This year, Gorsuch is one of four captains. She is also the only senior on the team.

“My goal as a captain is really to help other dancers be confident in themselves because that was a huge problem for me growing up in the dance industry,” Gorsuch said. “I hope I leave this year with [them having] a better mindset and feeling good about what they do every day.”

As one of the captains, Gorsuch organizes team bonding activities that help address everyone’s mindset. 

“One of my favorite team bonding that we do the night before the state championships is a candlelight service,” Gorsuch said. “We each light a candle and we talk about how we’re grateful for the team and how we appreciate everyone. At the end, we just listen to music [and] sit with each other, telling each other our thoughts and feelings. I think that moment is just amazing.”

To overcome any kind of doubts as a dancer, Gorsuch has strategies.

“I try to ignore the negativity in the world and other people that judge the dance team or judge us as dancers,” Gorsuch said. “I try to remember what I’m here for [and] I love what I do. I love everyone on the team. [I] use my confidence that way.”

Going forward, Gorsuch plans to become some kind of dance coach when she graduates to keep her involved with the sport.

“I had really amazing coaches all throughout my dance experience,” Gorsuch said. “I have had a lot of other friends who are on other teams that did not have a great experience with their coaches and I want to be a good coach. I want to help lead people to be the dancers and people they can be.”

Kai Debney
Kai Debney

Prior to joining the high school dance team, Kai Debney, freshman, started her dance journey at Westside Dance Academy and participated in her middle school’s team.

“I started at [Westside Dance Academy] but then [COVID-19] hit and I couldn’t commit to the studio anymore,” Debney said. “When I got out of the pandemic, I started on the middle school team and then I followed that into high school.”

Aside from the obstacle of COVID-19 in eighth grade, Debney faced a hip injury that is an ongoing issue.

“It can get really hard because you can compare yourselves to others, especially when you have an injury,” Debney said. “Watching everybody else dance because I had to sit out was hard but having motivation and focusing on the end goal helped.”

Currently, Debney can be seen dancing in the front or middle in the majority of the routines. She will also make appearances dancing in the back.

“If I feel really confident with the combination or the choreography then I’ll want to be in the front, but if I’m not confident with the timing or a certain move then I’d rather be in the back,” Debney said.

Throughout the season, the upperclassmen and captains have taught Debney skills and guided her during her experience.

“My captains and teammates definitely motivate and encourage me,” Debney said. “When I am a junior or senior I hope to be like the current upperclassmen and support the younger classes.”

The team’s hip-hop routine consists of remixes including artists such as Little John and oftentimes Debney listens to the playlist before a performance. As for her future, she has goals lined up.

“I plan on going to college and even if it’s not for dance, I definitely want to do something regarding dance even if it’s not serious,” Debney said. “Right now, I am working on getting a good firebird or both my right and left leg split.”

Sarah McCoy
Sarah McCoy

Sarah McCoy, sophomore, is a dancer on the West Linn dance team. She began dancing when she was small.

“I started dancing when I was young but didn’t really commit to it till I was nine,” McCoy said. “I didn’t really remember it from when I was younger, but I just have great memories of performing with my team.”

As members of the dance team may come from different backgrounds and have different experiences, McCoy also has unique skills that can prove helpful in her dance.

“I think I’m good at tricks and acrobatic stuff,” McCoy said. “I did cheer, so there was  gymnastics involved in that.”

While there are always obstacles in a team McCoy is optimistic.

“This year there’s been a lot of drama, but it hasn’t been that bad,” McCoy said.

In order to get in the right headspace, She and her team listen to music before competitions and performances.

“Our captains usually put together like playlists for that,” McCoy said. “We always do a group huddle before we perform.”

She works hard on the team and would like to share that with younger dancers.

“I would tell [younger dancers] to work as hard as they can and to practice at home, because a lot of people forget to,” McCoy said.

While she does enjoy dancing, she doesn’t think that will continue beyond high school.

“I think it’s really fun but I don’t feel like I’ll have time to do it beyond high school,” McCoy said. “But maybe once in a while.”

Hanna Layton
Hanna Layton

With a background in other performing arts, Hanna Layton, junior, brings her unique skills to the dance team.

“I started dancing at the beginning of last year. So it’s my second year dancing,” Layton said. “I do theater and so I did musical theater type of dance like tap and stuff like that, but not actually dance.”

During each dance routine, Layton prefers to stay out of the spotlight and see things from the back of the formation.

“Being in the front is fun because you get to see the audience more than being in the back. It’s more fun because you can see things that are happening in the routine,” Layton said. “[But] I find that when I’m in the front of something I don’t really know as much as what’s going on around me, and when I’m in the back I can see the story coming to life and see what’s happening with all the different individual dancers and that’s the best spot.”

Layton is working towards completing her goals as the year concludes.

“I would basically just continue to perfect my technique, and I think we tried to do a lot of team bonding right before we got to state so I think being a part of that and enjoying some of our time with our seniors and all of that stuff.”

As an upperclassman, Layton believes in connecting with her peers and team bonding has its benefits.

“Don’t be afraid to get to know the older people on the team. I think that sometimes it can be a little intimidating going in and it doesn’t need to be and I think it’s a much better experience if you’re able to be friends with everyone and connect with everyone,” Layton said. “Just take risks and try things when you’re at practice because it helps you grow.”

Although she is passionate about it, Layton doesn’t believe that she’ll be dancing past high school. 

“I have a lot of other things that I’m gonna be trying to do,” Layton said. “I’m a part of choir and I think I want to try to do acapella stuff. So I don’t know if I’ll have time to do everything, but I really do enjoy dance.”

Lexi Gilliam
Lexi Gilliam

With this season being only her second year of competitive dance, Lexi Gilliam, sophomore, is making waves. Gilliam began dancing in the eighth grade and decided to continue the sport into high school.

“Eighth grade year I took classes with some of my friends from middle school so that was a lot of fun, and I had a really great dance teacher who really made me fall in love with it,” Gilliam said. “I took a little ballet when I was three. I don’t have very many memories from that but I remember always going into the studio and looking for older people with all the pretty dresses and wanting to wear that.”

The transition between studio to competitive dancing has not gone by without its challenges between practices and competitions, as well as cooperating within a team.

“[Studio dance] was a lot easier in a way, it was more just like, ‘Let me introduce the idea to you, we don’t need to get it perfect, we’re just having fun and learning new things,’ whereas dance team is kind of like drilling the same thing over and over again until it’s perfect,” Gilliam said. “There definitely have [been obstacles] between communication with teammates. That can definitely be a struggle sometimes but we came together and we’ve had team talks to work through issues.” 

The team consists of mostly upperclassmen, with one captain who’s a senior and three captains who are juniors. Gilliam sits somewhere in between newer teammates and the captains.

“I’m probably someone that the freshmen, or people who would feel like they have less of a voice could come and talk to you, and then I can also talk to the captains about those things,” Gilliam said. “I’ve definitely learned a lot from them. I guess they’ve taught me not to be so hard on myself and that even if you don’t necessarily see yourself progressing in a little amount of time, all the hard work you’re putting in is paying off.”

The dance team competes in several genres during their competitions, including hip-hop. Their routine in the genre got them 6th place in state competitions.

“We had a choreographer come in from LA and teach us over a weekend,” Gilliam said. “I’m in a lot of different spots in it, so that’s exciting. That one’s my favorite— it’s hip-hop so it’s really hard-hitting. We have some tricks in it like we have kip-ups, I do a head kip-up, we have cartwheels like onto the ground. [It’s] a lot of just the group making sure we’re in sync, if that makes sense.”

Being in sync and having positive energy can be crucial components to a good dance routine. Before a competition, the Lions team will “pull the floor.”

“Before we pull the floor we always get in a circle and do a little huddle, our captains will share a few words to motivate us and try and get us to just shake off our fears, and then we’ll start,” Gilliam said. “It’s usually just stuff along the lines of, ‘You’ve put in like a lot of work into this routine. If you mess up, it’s okay. Just do your best, put your heart into it.”

Lily Walsh
Lily Walsh

Lily Walsh, junior, is a member of the dance team. She has been dancing and doing performances since the age of six. She danced off and on at the Lake Oswego studio before joining the team as a freshman. 

 “I think getting to perform at the Keller [Auditorium] in Portland was a really good experience for me,” Walsh said. 

As an upperclassman on the team and as a returning member, Walsh has an impact on her teammates. 

“I’m definitely not a super extroverted person. So I wouldn’t put myself as one of the leaders on the team, but I try to lead by example,” Walsh said. “That’s always my goal. I would say just making sure that my teammates feel supported and that we have a positive environment.”

When she was younger, she performed in the ballet “The Nutcracker.” Hip-hop is a style of dance that differs from Walsh’s background as a ballet dancer. 

“One of my biggest goals is to demonstrate skills that I’m not really used to and put myself out there with hip-hop,” Walsh said. “That’s not a skill I’m super proud of yet, but [I want to] keep working on that.”

Before performances, Walsh and her teammates listen to music, as well as a pre-performance ritual. 

“As a team we put on music. And it’s usually early 2000s music,” Walsh said.   

After high school, Walsh wishes to continue dancing. 

“It’s a good outlet and it’s helped me a lot with taking away the stress of other parts of my life, so I definitely want to continue it,” Walsh said. “Maybe not at the professional level, but just as a fun thing to do on the side.”

Kathryn Anderson
Kathryn Anderson

A first season of high school dance is coming to an end for Kathryn Anderson, sophomore. Anderson began dancing in Lake Oswego, but eventually moved to a studio in West Linn and joined the dance team at the high school.

“[My old team] used to perform in front of old folks’ homes, we would do that here and there and we would travel places and perform,” Anderson said. “[Those memories] shaped who I am today, as a dancer and as a person. It was just a fun experience.”

Since the start of the season, Anderson has had to bounce back from surgery and an unrelated injury.

“I had to get surgery, and then I sprained my ankle again. But, I’m back,” Anderson said. “It was a lot of like mentally like, ‘Oh, I can’t do this right now.’ But I overcame it by just thinking about what I’m grateful for.”

Each dancer has a unique role on the team when it comes to performing routines and working together to contribute to a positive environment.

“Our formations always move, so it’s like there would be parts that would be in the front and then some I would be like, in the middle,” Anderson said. “I feel like my role is just to be a good sports person, like [to] have good sportsmanship and to support my team.” 

“[My goal is to] stay positive and have grace with my team and with myself,” Anderson said. “It takes time— be thankful about what you have.”

Before a competition of performance, the team likes to listen to music in order to get in the right headspace.

“I listen to a whole bunch of music. It’s kind of just random,” Anderson said. “Our captains all join their four different types of music into one playlist, so it’s a lot of different vibes.”

Anderson has plans to continue dance in college, and even aspires to be like some professional and college dance teams. 

“I look up to the University of Oregon’s dance team and the Minnesota dance team. They all have dance backgrounds but sometimes weren’t dancing for super long, but somehow made the team,” Anderson said. “I really enjoy dance and I don’t see my future without dancing.”

Evelyn Morlan
Evelyn Morlan

Evelyn Morlan, junior, is one of the captains of the dance team. Morlan joined the dance team as a freshman with no dance experience prior to joining. 

Although dance is an extracurricular activity Morlan recently picked up, it takes up hours of her week. Dance practices allow the members to put time and effort into their routines.

“Dance is a really big commitment,” Morlan said. “We practice four to five times a week for three to four hours, sometimes even five or six hours every practice. Dance is your social life and all of your extracurricular time.”

Being relatively new to dance, there are certain skills Morlan believes she can improve on.

“My technique, especially my ballet technique, is not as advanced as people who have been dancing for their whole lives,” Morlan said. “My personal goal is to keep working on my technique as the season continues.”

As a captain of the dance team, Morlan helps out other members of the team. Being a captain in dance involves being a leader for other members, contributing to team bonding, and leading routines. One important aspect of dance involves facial expressions, and this is something Morlan emphasizes to her teammates.

“So if you’re doing a hip hop routine, you need to have a sassy face, if you’re doing ballet or contemporary, depending on the theme of the dance, you have to be sad, or mad, or dramatic,” Morlan said. “So that’s a big thing I always tell the team, don’t forget your facials because that’s how you tell the story through your dance.”

Along with adjusting facial expressions, dancers also change their personality to improve performances.

“I am a very big introvert, but when it comes to dance, I love to dance and I love to perform,” Morlan said.

While being an introvert, dance still requires working with other students and performers. As a captain, Morlan helps encourage the members of the team. This includes participating in routines that occur during each competition.

“Every time at a competition, we roll the floor, and then we all go out into the center of it and we go in a circle with our arms around each other and we hype each other up,” Morlan said. “That’s the time the captains will talk to the team.”

Even with a continuous involvement with dance, Morlan does not see herself pursuing dance at a collegiate level. However, it is still an aspect of her life that she is interested in incorporating into her future.

Ayla Gray
Ayla Gray

Ayla Gray, junior, is a head captain on the West Linn dance team. She began dancing when she was young and has continued her journey into high school.

“I’ve been dancing since I was like four, but I started on West Linn’s dance team when I was a freshman,” Gray said. “I enjoy just being there for my teammates and making it a good environment for them, just a place where they can all grow together. Being the one who facilitates that is really special for me.”

Part of her role as a captain is to lead the team in building their skills and camaraderie. 

“So we [captains] will lead stretches, teach combos, and facilitate conversations between our teammates,” Gray said. “I think this is our closest season as a team, everyones getting along and we’re just coming from a place where everyone really loves where we’re at, so it’s really great.”

This season of dance has been both exciting and challenging for some of West Linn’s dancers.

“This current season I’d say our biggest obstacle has just been keeping up our stamina,” Gray said. “Dance is a very strenuous sport and trying to build up that stamina and keep it consistent is challenging. But I’d say we’re at a spot where we’re in peak performance condition.

I would consider it [dancing] more of a sport because you are getting your heart rate up and you’re practicing for hours on end. It’s like if you were to run a mile but you’re also jumping at the same time,” Gray said.

Alissa Lee
Alissa Lee

Alissa Lee, junior, is in her first year on the dance team. She had past experience with figure skating when she was younger. She saw the connection between dancing and figure skating. 

“Whenever I felt like I was alone and struggling, there [were] always dancers around to help me and can help others too”, Lee said. 

She hopes to be a good influence on the younger students who join the West Linn dance community. Her motivation for dancing is the music, as it allows her to express herself. It took her back to when she did figure skating as it was similar to the way she could express herself. 

“Dancing is the only time I am allowed to express myself through music,” Lee said.. 

Her goal in dancing is to improve her flexibility and confidence. 

“My biggest inspiration is Kristen Dodgen, you can see her confidence when she dances. I strive to be like her,” Lee said. 

Lee thinks confidence and flexibility are key when it comes to dancing. She is determined to improve and is active in practices and competitions. 

Lee has a motto for when she dances that also helps her calm down when she is nervous about performing.

“Let’s just be confident and give it our all, whatever happens, happens. There is always room to grow,” Lee said.  

Lee prepares herself with energy before her performances with her pregame music playlist. She uses her nervous emotions to her advantage because dancing allows her to relax. 

“I realized I had so much passion for dancing when it allowed me to relax and only focus on what the next move was,” Lee said. “Even when I am having a rough day, dancing [makes] me happy.”

Kaitlyn McCord
Kaitlyn McCord

Kaitlyn McCord, sophomore, has been on dance teams since sixth grade. In middle school, she was a team captain, building bonds with other captains that translated into high school.

“It created [those] already good memories and a good feel to the team,” McCord said. “It was so fun, and I think it set a pace for high school.”

Over time, McCord built up more confidence on the team, feeling more comfortable with more central places in their routines.

“When I was a freshman, I definitely liked being [in the] back,” McCord said. “But now, being middle to front is my favorite.”

 

Though the team has run into some complications, McCord believes that’s to be expected.

 

“I think that helps us grow even better,” McCord said. “Because now we’re stronger than ever and we’re all a happy little team.”

McCord knows that practice makes perfect, making it her personal goal to build her skills as she continues to grow.

“Practice over and over again and that really shows a difference in your skills throughout the years, and throughout just one year,” McCord said.

Professional dance teams, such as those for the Portland Timbers, inspire McCord to build her skills even more.

“We’ll see all these Blazer dancers and Timbers dancers do all of these cool routines,” McCord said. “You get inspired and want to work to be them.”

Beyond high school, McCord wants to keep dance in her life, taking classes or even coming back to coach the team one day.

“I love dancing so that’s why I want to do classes and keep building those skills,” McCord said.

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