Manual Dazzlers: Journey to nationals


Guest Contributor

This piece was submitted by Olivia Bohler (10, J&C).

This year, the Manual Dazzlers are national finalists for the second year in a row.

Starting in the first weekend of September 2018, five months before the competition,  the Dazzler competition team spent eighteen hours dedicating time to learn a complex routine for nationals.

In this routine, they completed stunts, acrobatics, and difficult footwork that were altered until right before going onto the national stage.

In addition to working on their national routine at this time, this is when the Dazzler team began to perform at football home games.

The team learned the routines they performed at football games and pep rallies while in the midst of practicing their national’s choreography.

“It was a lot to take in and the business of our schedules really forced us to work really hard in order to keep up, but it’s what we signed up for and I was really happy with the outcome,” Olivia Sebastian (10, YPAS), a Manual Dazzler said.

Over the span of five months, the Dazzlers worked hours on end receiving altercations and bringing new ideas to the routine.

It was first performed at a pep rally to conclude the Red/White spirit week on the day of the Male vs. Manual game.

“After finishing this pep rally performance we were all really proud of our performance, even though we made a few individual mistakes under the pressure, and excited by the reaction of the student body,” Olivia Sebastian (10, YPAS), a Manual Dazzler said.

They performed this dance at least seven times leading up to their national performance at pep rallies, competitions, and their send off the night before leaving for Orlando, Florida.

Despite nationals being the most important competition they do, it is not the only one. The Dazzlers participate in both the Regionals, State and at JamFest competitions.

At these competitions, they were expected to come out on top and they delivered, coming in first place at Regionals, fourth place at State and first place at Jamfest, in which they performed only their hip hop routine.

After regular competition season ended, national preparation came in at full force–increasing their already aggressive practice schedule to the extreme, working an extra nine hours a week.

Before going to nationals, not only is it seen as important to know your routines but also to display a sense of unity at the competition. In order to do this, the dazzlers wore the same practice uniforms, the same sneakers, the same hairstyle, and even the same nail color.

The Dazzlers left for nationals on Thursday, February 21st. Flying from the Muhammad Ali Louisville Airport, with a layover in BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport,  and eventually reaching their final destination—Orlando, Florida.

The Dazzlers performance day was two days: Saturday, February 23rd and Sunday, February 24th, and was held at Universal Studios at Hard Rock Live (an auditorium within Hard Rock Cafe).

“We had a hip hop and a jazz routine for nationals. Our hip hop was super hard-hitting but also really fun and our jazz was more contemporary style,” Danielle Evans (11, YPAS), a Manual Dazzler said.

When competition day came, the Dazzlers left got breakfast as a team and headed towards Universal Studios with packed bags full of their costumes and accessories.

To start out the day, the coaches checked in the team while they stretched and then rehearsed in the parking lot. After this, they would take a bus to the designated warm-up building.

At the warm-up building, the team would receive time allocated towards practicing on a stage identical towards the one they would be performing on and time on turning boards.

“Competition days are long and we have eight-hour practices to prepare for them, we usually get together about two hours before our warm-up time to do hair and makeup and then go to the competition to begin warming up,” Bella Hobson (11, YPAS), a Manual Dazzler said.

The Dazzlers ended up in third place in the hip-hop category and nineteenth place in jazz on day one. On day 2, however, the Dazzlers did not win it all, coming in fourth place in hip-hop and twentieth in jazz. Regardless, they have big plans for next year to take back their title as national champions.

“I was actually really proud of my team after nationals, although we didn’t win first, it was the best performance we’ve ever put on and regardless of what the judges believed I think we looked amazing. Dance is frustrating because it’s all based on opinion, but I think our skill level and choreography was by far the best. Preparing for it can be difficult at times, due to our long practices, but it all paid off in the end,” Bella Hobson (10, YPAS), a Manual Dazzler said.