On March 6th, 2020, high school dance teams from 31+ states will begin to compete for the coveted NDA National Championship title in Orlando, Florida. These teams, complied of dancers with different back grounds from all across the US, will compete 430 dance routines throughout the course of the weekend, displaying their passion and proficiency in a range of styles including jazz, pom, hip hop, kick and the unique to NDA, Team Performance division.
The event, which was formerly held at the Hard Rock Live, is kicking off it’s inagural year at the Caribe Royal in Orlando. The buzz is abound as the event grows near.
But what is it like being on a high school dance team, and what does it take for teams to prepare for a competition of this caliber? What is so special about the experience that sets it apart?
We spoke with coaches, dancers and judges who gave us some special insight into what it’s like to be at NDA Nationals and what they’re looking forward to as the event draws closer and closer to a reality!
The National Dance Alliance (or NDA) was created in 1976 and has paved the way in dance team training ever since. Today NDA trains dance teams across the country at hundreds of summer camps, and hosts competitions for teams to demonstrate their skill and athleticism.
Each team who wishes to attend NDA nationals must receive a bid from either competing at summer camp, a regional event, or by submitting a qualification video. These teams are evaluated on a standardized scale that is then also used in evaluation at the national level.
Months of Preparation go into the journey to NDA Nationals
Amanda Miller, coach of Liberty High School from Lake St. Louis in Missouri is bringing her team to NDA Nationals for their 3rd year. Her dancers train four days a week for 3-4 hours, for seven months before the event, which is the culmination of their hard work. Her dancers also participate in a cardio strength training once a week and most of them also train at their local studio (although this can’t be a mandate by most high school coaches.) This season, they are competing in the Jazz, Pom and Game Day divisions.
“I love the positivity and energy that NDA Nationals gives us. Everyone genuinely wants us to do well. Everyone is happy we’re there. Everyone is interested in our success. I love cheering on the other Missouri teams who also travel to Orlando to compete with us. I love how NDA Nationals is the last competition of our season. It’s an incredible way to end our dance team year.”Amanda Miller
It takes unity and heart
Shannah James is a former dance team captain at Ramona HS and Long Beach State. She is also an NDA Head instructor, and current coach and choreographer for Ramona High School Song in San Diego, California. When preparing her team for nationals she shares:
“We work on the knowledge, the technique, their positivity, goals, and ultimately their ”why.” WHY they put so much time and effort into the team. And when you see that come out at NDA Nationals, it’s an emotional time. Everyone is happy and proud, but also sad that its over. It’s overall a whirlwind of emotion, dancing, energy, and passion, and its all worth the experience.”Shannah James
Ramona High School competes in the Team Performance division at NDA. This is a unique division in that teams are required to perform four styles of dance (Jazz, Pom, Hip Hop and Kick) within one, 2:15 minute routine. As Cheryl Paquette, veteran judge of almost 30 years explains, “Their challenge is to clearly display these genres while bridging the gaps between the styles to captivate the audience.”
Cheryl has been an integral part in developing the current judging system that NDA prides itself on. A former Mizzou Golden Girl, NDA head instructor and event director, she has helped shape what is known as the NDA Judging Scale, in which judges evaluate teams based off a well developed rubric, that is used in each event across the country. Dance routines and performances are evaluated based on their merit in execution, technical aptitude, uniformity, showmanship, staging, choreography and difficulty.
It’s about the culture
“Being part of an organization that dates back to the 70’s brings me pride. The legacy that NDA upholds pays tribute to its foundation of spirit, tradition and excellence.Their motto #TheWorkIsWorthIt can be applied to life beyond the sideline or Marley. NDA creates a culture that turns work into family which is why the NDA legacy is so special.”Cherly Paquette
Competing at a competition like NDA Nationals is not simply about dance and it’s not simply about winning. Teammates and coaches get to learn about themselves, what their limits are and where their strengths lie. Teams get to experience the elation of hard work paying off and the thrill of a dynamite performance together. Being a part of a dance team teaches dancers the value of working in a group, relating to others and in working in unison to achieve a common goal.
“Being on this dance team has taught me so many life skills that I will carry on through out my life. I’ve learned how to push myself to my reach goals and be successful. My skills as a dancer and a person have grown past what I ever thought they could.”Megan Waples, third year member of Ramona HS song
NDA Nationals is a high caliber production, attracting dance teams from across the country to compete, build character and to share their passion and tenacity for dance. At the end of the day, the weekend, the season, they hope that dancers will experience that #theworkisworthit, whether they go home with a trophy or not.
Online coverage of the event begins March 6th, 2020: Learn more here
For more information about NDA, please visit nda.varsity.com