FHC Dance team places ninth at nationals


Ali Czarnecki, Sports Reporter

Stepping off the plane, senior captains Katelyn Johnson, Elizabeth Martin, and Paityn Wedder, were preparing for their last competition. Following a grueling schedule, the season came down to one final try at the national competition. The FHC Dance team placed ninth in the nation.

The girls won first in the Jazz category in all competitions this year. During the preliminaries, their jazz in the medium varsity division qualified them for finals in Orlando, Florida. For the first time in school history, the FHC dance team had placed at nationals.

“Going into it was really intimidating,” Elizabeth said. “It was very exciting to leave my senior year with a win. We told the freshman and sophomores to just be excited and have fun, because we don’t do very well when we are nervous and under pressure.”

In the preliminaries, they scored 86 out of 100. This score placed them in the top 15 of 25 teams in their division. The girls and head coach Holly Bieber would finally be recognized for their hard work. The following day, the girls recompeted their jazz dance in order for a chance to place as national finalists. Their score improved to an 87 in the finals, and they received 9th place.

“The whole thing was exciting and intimidating at the same time,” Bieber said. “We are a very strong, successful, and well-known team in our West Michigan region. However, nationals is a different ball game. I knew we would be competing against the best of the best in the country. I prepared by having lots of repetition of the competition routines. We practiced them every single practice and almost every basketball game. I watched them closely and reviewed videos over and over. I made the appropriate adjustments to the routine to improve and strengthen it. By the end, I felt that was achieved.”

To qualify for nationals, teams must go to National Dance Alliance (NDA) Camp in the summer before the season. In the past, they have gone to Universal Dance Alliance (UDA) Camp, but Bieber decided to attend NDA this year, because it fit the team’s competition level better.


“I chose NDA over UDA because of our school division,” Bieber said. “UDA finalists are by far the best in the world. It is nearly impossible to compare to them. It is held in Disney world which tends to be a major distraction. NDA is held at the hard rock at universal studios has more of a level playing field. Fewer distractions and more opportunities to dance. For the first time ever, FHC made it to the finals round for jazz, and it was surreal. It made all of the work completely worth it.”

During nationals, the team saw about 700 opposing teams, but Bieber said she knew that they could hang with them.

The girls competed against elite teams such as Rockford, Jenison, FHNE, East Kentwood, and others throughout the year. Local competitions were difficult to win, so the team had to set the bar higher to hold their own against the field at nationals. Getting through this tough season, the three seniors pushed them to be their best.

“Our senior captains this year pumped us up, because they were the ones who knew how to run things,” Alyssa Zadel said. “Before competitions, the seniors lead us in a prayer which got us in the zone to take on the dance.”

One of the seniors, Katelyn, showed great success and had stepped up several times this season to get the team to where they needed to be. Katelyn has been dancing since she has been two years old and joined the dance team as a freshman. Ever since then, she has put plenty of hours a day into dancing, and the hard work has paid off.

“In the past years, we have never even advanced to finals,” she said. “We were really happy placing in the top ten. In general, watching the other teams we beat or came close to beating was really cool to see. Our team has progressed a lot since we started back in May. Learning our Jazz dance was tough, so it was awesome to see how far we came.”

By her side, Paityn, another senior, has a loving passion for this team and dance in general. Dancing on this team for four years and having Bieber as a coach, has strengthened her love for this sport and has taught her about more than just dance.

“Holly [Bieber] taught us the importance of being a team, not only when dancing, but in life in general,” Paityn said. “Remaining an individual won’t get you nearly as far as coming together with those working towards common goals.”

Leaving a permanent mark on this team, Paityn has accomplished a tremendous amount of success throughout her dancing career. Dancing for fifteen years, Paityn will stop dancing after high school. Ending with something so memorable, Paityn says she will never forget this team.

“Before we performed, one of the people working backstage came up to our team and said, “who here is an underclassman?a��. To those who raised their hands, he said, “alright, you all have a responsibility to the seniors, don’t let them down during their last chance to ever dance. Nobody is going to hand it to you’,” Paityn said. “So, to the entire team, thank you for not letting your seniors down and allowing us to remember what it feels like to place at the national level. I’ll never forget the feeling of hearing our name called.”