Senior captain Erin Decker and her Rochelle teammates were anxiously awaiting the results of the IHSA 1A Competitive Dance Sectional at DeKalb High School on Saturday.
Those uncertain feelings faded in a matter of seconds when officials announced that Rochelle placed second out of 17 schools, meaning the Chellettes would get to representing RTHS in the IHSA State Championships for the second straight season and the third time in four years.
“It was pretty emotional for all of us,” Decker said. “Sarah [Dreska] and I were thinking that this could be our last performance with our team. We were really nervous to find out the results because we knew who our biggest competitors were, but we were all really excited to find out we placed second. We’re glad to have the chance to go back to state again.”
The Chellettes performed the lyrical jazz routine, choreographed by head coach Kass Smith, that they’ve been perfecting throughout the competitive dance season. Rochelle scored 86.80 points at the sectional meet, improving on their Interstate 8 Conference performance by nearly seven points (79.87). Burlington Central won the sectional title with 89.33 points. The Chellettes tied for the eighth-best score among all 1A teams in sectional competition.
“It was the most emotional I’ve ever been,” senior Sarah Dreska said. “It was exciting to realize that the sectional wasn’t our last time performing together. We can get even better during practice this week, and we can score even higher than we did at sectionals. I think we were more in sync with each other at the sectional, and I think we were more prepared. We worked really hard to perfect our routine and perform better than we did at the conference meet.”
This season’s lyrical jazz routine is set to the song “Heart Cry” off the album Perpetual Emotions by the EDM artist Drehz. Coincidentally, the performance, which runs nearly three minutes long, was originally choreographed to display multiple emotions including sadness, anger and happiness. However, the team revised the routine just before the sectional to express all sadness, and the girls said the tonal change helped to improve the overall performance.
“When [Kass] chooses our choreography, she knows how we dance and she knows how to put together a routine that fits our strengths,” junior Kayla Keilman said. “I think our style really complements our strengths… Our mentality definitely changed during the season, and we have this saying that, if the whole team looked like one dancer, what would that dancer look like. When we think about that, something switches on for us and makes us work so much harder.”
The IHSA State Championships will begin on Friday, Jan. 31 and continue through Saturday, Feb. 1 at the Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington. The IHSA has assigned Rochelle to report at 10:49 a.m. on Friday before a scheduled 10:59 a.m. stretch, 11:06 a.m. full floor appearance and the team’s preliminary performance at 11:27 a.m. Qualifying teams will advance to the finals on Saturday, where teams will perform one last time before final results are given.
“Coach Smith is a huge reason why we perform the way we do and why we go as far as we do,” Decker said. “She really pushes all of us to perform better and better each time we’re out there, and it doesn’t matter if it’s for a game, a competition or practice. When we run through our choreography, she tells us what we can fix, and we fix it.”