While dance team found success at nationals, Abby Drueke found success in dance team


Hundreds of dance teams flooded to Orlando, Florida two weeks ago to participate in the 2019 UDA National Dance Team Championship. FHC’s celebrated team was one of many groups anxiously waiting to perform its relentlessly-practiced routine.

When the girls took the stage, freshman Abby Drueke found herself ready to perform at Nationals for her very first time.

“Nationals was great,” Abby said. “It was my first experience doing that, so it was super cool to learn how everything worked and how the other teams [interact]. I never knew it was such of a team aspect. It was super competitive, and dance isn’t usually like that. So [we felt like] way more of a team, more together.”

The girls did extremely well, earning a coveted top twenty bragging point thanks to the team placing 17th in jazz. Abby’s role in their tight-knit team began to develop long before they flew down to Orlando, though. In fact, it can be pinpointed to her tryout in the spring of her eighth grade year.

“[The tryout process] was a little stressful, but it was definitely fun,” Abby said. “We learned a little combo with all styles and then did it. I thought it was fun.”

The tryout process, like ones for other varsity sports, provided the expected amounts of anxiety; however, it was eased slightly for Abby, thanks to some aspects of familiarity she had while being surrounded by the team.

“[I wanted to try out],” Abby said, “because a lot of the seniors and upperclassmen that I had already known [were already on the team].”

The fact that dance in Grand Rapids is made up of many overlapping circles is the reason why Abby knew the former dance team coach beforehand, as well.

When she found out that she had earned a spot on the team of twelve, Abby was overjoyed. Though she has been dancing since she was only three years old, she had only been involved with studio dancing and had never participated in a school-oriented sport.

“I was super excited [when I got on the team],” Abby said. “I was glad to be a part of a school sport because I had never done it before. Usually, I just do studio dance. So I thought [dance team] was super fun. I was excited to be part of a team.”

Her fascination with being tied to the school continued as the lengthy season progressed. Abby’s school spirit was enhanced by the sport in the fall when the dance team performed at every home football game.

“I really liked the atmosphere of dancing at football games because it was so much less stressful than doing a full dance,” said Abby, who danced with her team in between the first and second quarter. “It was super fun doing it in front of the student section because they would go crazy when [the team would] go out. I really enjoyed the environment.”

After the football team had run its course, Abby and the rest of the dance team still had a full basketball season to look forward to. As opposed to the short dance performed in between quarters at football games, the team would dance one of their much longer full-length dances at halftime of basketball games.

“I think [during basketball season], the dances we do are way harder and longer,” Abby said. “I think it’s cool, but also way harder and more stressful to [dance] in front of your school. It’s just a super different dynamic. Especially doing dances like jazz, it’s more serious. Some people don’t react the best to that, as opposed to [how they react during] hip hop. That really gets people going.”

The intensity of the challenging winter season was increased due to a number of challenges the team faced. Namely, the parting of their coach from the team. Abby, along with the other girls, were forced to adapt to their difficult situation.

“[Losing our coach] was hard on the team,” Abby said. “I had never been on dance team before, so I couldn’t really compare it to anything else, but I know that for the other girls, especially the senior captains, it was a lot for them. The seniors had to take over, but they were awesome. We ran about a month of practices on our own.”

Fortunately, Abby is a big fan of the two new coaches that were hired.

“We have awesome coaches,” Abby said. “They stepped in and really revamped the whole team. I love them and think that they are super cool. They’re super professional, but also so nice and friendly.”

Abby had also heard of her two new coaches just from being involved in studio dance. Dance Dimensions, the studio where she dances at, has been providing her with a solid dance background for many years, though it varies greatly from her dance experience at school.

“[Studio dance] is a super different environment,” Abby said. “It’s way less of a team. Dance team is so small, where as Dance Dimensions has over sixty people of all different ages and levels. You don’t really get to know everyone as well.”

No matter where she is dancing, the sport has become an outlet for Abby throughout her day.

“Dance is such a relief,” Abby said. “I can go to dance and release all my emotions. Dance is so mental too. It’s not just doing moves; my head is working, and I need to focus instead of thinking about other things.”

Both studio dance and dance team have taught Abby many things, but she credits dance team with teaching her important life lessons.

“I have definitely learned responsibility [from being a part of dance team],” Abby said. “Being part of the team has helped me learn how to hold my part. I’ve learned maturity; I’m one of only two freshmen on the team.”

Abby hopes that all she has learned from dance is not ignored and that the rest of the school respects and acknowledges the prowess of the dance team.

“A lot of people think [dance team] is not good,” Abby said. “A lot of people were surprised that we were going to Nationals or that we were doing well in our season. We’re competitive, and we do cut. A lot of work goes into it. We’re conditioning and getting ready for our season. I want people to know that it takes a lot, and we work just as much as any other sport does.”