Last weekend, the RBHS Bruin Girls headed to the National Dance Association National Championship at the hallowed stages of the Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando, Florida. Scoring third in the nation in their Pom and Jazz routines and second in the Team Performance routine, the team was unprecedentedly successful and happy with the results.
“[Team Performance] was the last routine that they did, and it was unbelievably solid,” co-coach Nicole Clemens said. “It was the perfect way for them to end their season; they did everything they needed to do in that routine. They executed all the changes and it was the sharpest, it was the most together, it was the most fun to watch that routine has ever been. And as a final routine, you can’t ask for anything else. And in the end we took 2nd, and that was horribly disappointing, but to walk away knowing that what you left on the stage was everything you could have left on the stage, is a really good feeling.”
To do as well as they did, senior and co-captain of the team Caroline Sundvold said incredible amounts of work and self-motivation were involved. Bruin Girls is a year-round commitment, starting in April and ending in March, with only a couple weeks of break anywhere in between.
“We went last year and were nowhere near as prepared as we should’ve been,” Sundvold said. “And so we kind of left with the mindset that we wanted to go back and try again. So when we qualified for nationals, we decided we were going to go through with it and work really hard as a team. There’s a lot of work that goes into going into nationals because with dance as a subjective sport, art, whatever you want to call it, it’s a lot different than a game, because you never know who you’re going to go up against, and you also can only do your dance as well as you can. You just have to make sure you don’t make any mistakes, because at nationals especially, the smallest mistake can cost you a win, because people win by literally 1/100th of a point, so we definitely put a lot of work in this year.”
Regardless of how the team did, Clemens said simply the experience of nationals made the work worth it. She had never been as a coach and nearly half the team hadn’t been before either, so she said the novelty of the experience made it all the more exciting.
“You get there and you’re there with 20 of these amazing young women and they’re there with 19 of their best friends, doing something that they love, and surrounded by other people from all over the world who are doing the same thing,” Clemens said. “And you get to watch these amazing dancers and be a part of something that’s just so cool. It’s at the Hard Rock so it’s on the same stage that all these famous rock stars have been on, and you get to change your clothes in the same dressing room, and it’s different than a football game or a basketball game or just a local competition because the calibre of dancers and the kind of production of the whole thing is so much higher; you just feel the energy before you get in the building.”
Bruin Girls has members of all grade levels, making the opportunity to attend nationals open to sophomores as well as seniors. Sophomore Bruin Girl Brooke Herigon believes that getting to attend nationals on her first year at Rock Bridge was an invaluable learning experience, one she hopes she gets again in the future.
“It was such a privilege to go to nationals as a sophomore,” Herigon said. “The team was very strong this year and we had a great group of seniors leading us. We were all our best motivators; it was great seeing all of the hard work pay off and spending time with the team, and I can’t wait to attend nationals again.”
For Sundvold, however, this year’s nationals marked her last year at Rock Bridge and as a Bruin Girl. Though this is bittersweet, she said she couldn’t be happier with her time as a Bruin Girl at Rock Bridge.
“Nationals are one of my favorite, most memorable experiences that I’ve had at Rock Bridge, both years,” Sundvold said. “It’s really fun, exhausting, but the work is always worth it in the end. The opportunity to attend nationals as a senior to kind of end my days as a Bruin Girl was definitely the best way I could’ve gone out, and I’m so thankful that we did well.”
Clemens, who plans to coach the team for many years to come, said she hopes to continue this legacy of success for future years’ teams. Despite the continuity in excellence, however, Clemens also said she hopes the team will see structural changes in the near future.
“We’re trying to grow our program,” Clemens said. “Bruin Girls is always pretty small, it doesn’t have a JV. And that is intimidating, I think, to some people who would be interested in being dancers, but they see that [the Bruin Girls] are good, and there’s this sort of perception that you have to come in already being that good. So we’re trying to break through that and trying to get dancers or people who could be dancers who we can kind of mold along the way, and that might mean a football-only team or a JV team. We are trying to expand our program because we see at state and at nationals, the most successful programs are the ones that don’t just have a varsity, they have a JV, that kind of thing. Now is the time to do that, to grow the program.”
By Urmila Kutikkad