Bop to the Top

Dance team shows that they are a force to be reckoned with at city championships

Bop+to+the+Top

Tia Garth

Ellie Lawrence '18, Lifestyles Editor

Sixteen girls, all wearing the same red hooded shirts and loose gray pants, sit in a circle holding hands. The tension in the crowded gym is nearly tangible, silence waiting to be broken by the announcer over the loudspeaker, delivering the results of the dance competition.

“Second place of the hip-hop division, with a score of 80.36, goes to…”

The pause makes the suspense even more unbearable.

“Jones!”

The girls erupt into screams, jumping into the air, elated, and then huddle together. The Jones College Prep dance team had never made it this far in a competition. With what the girls credit as commitment, a great dynamic, and a dedicated coach, the team has thrived, coming in at just five points below the first place team, Whitney Young.

“It‘s a testament to them that they’re doing this well, because they are also now in a tougher division than they were previously,” says dance teacher and coach Elise Foshay.

The Jones dance program fosters two teams; full and competition. The full team dances at basketball games and pep rallies, and often brings in choreographers to learn dances. The smaller competition team learns and performs dances to compete against other schools.

Team captain Heather Drain ‘17 describes competition team as “a little more time taxing.” This is due to the intense skill and commitment needed, since developing the choreography often requires learning difficult tricks and practicing for long hours.

In previous years, the team had struggled when competing against other schools, only getting far as the state tournament three years ago. Then, with Foshay taking over as coach in 2015, the team placed third in the city.

“I think, honestly, it’s all because of Mrs. Foshay,” says Maddie Crockett ‘18, a dancer on the team. “She signed us up for competitions, and she worked us out, and she cleaned up the dance.”

Foshay has translated her extensive experience in dance into strong leadership of the team. Beginning at age 13, she was a competitive ballroom dancer for 10 years. After attending Columbia College, she was a professional dancer in various Chicago companies for around 8 years, and then went to graduate school to get an MFA in dance and her teaching license.

“I knew when I got a teaching license that I wanted to teach in CPS, this is where I was from originally,” says Foshay. After a year at Walter Payton, Foshay came to Jones to teach dance and coach the dance team, which she has done for the last two years.

While the dancers praise their coach for her contributions to the team, Foshay credits the dancers for their success.

“They’ve been super dedicated,” says Foshay. “They put in easily 10 to 15 hours of practice time a week, and our competitions are usually 8 to 10 hour days on the weekends, so the amount of time and dedication they’ve put into the team has just been incredible this year.”

Drain, like many of the girls on the team, comes from a diverse background in dance. After starting ballet at age three, she experimented with different styles over the years, adding jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, and pointe to her repertoire. As to the rest of the team, Foshay acknowledges that the degree of dance training the girls have had is “really variant.”

“We’re a hip-hop based team, so some of them danced in hip-hop groups in their elementary schools, or they’ve taken an after school program or something at some point, some of them have gone through ASM dance programs, so most of them have had some sort of outside dance training at some point, but at varying degrees of formal,” says Foshay.

Regardless of experience, the hard work put in by the dancers is what allows them to keep improving.

“They’ve upped their performance level, so that means that we can give them more challenging work, which then in turn will help them to become more competitive,” says Foshay.

A strong sense of team pride and a great dynamic between the girls has enabled the dance team to really come together. As Drain explains, early morning practices, team sleepovers, and long competition days have led the team to become close knit and supportive.

“There’s obviously a great dynamic,” says Drain. “When you’re on the team, age or grade is kind of blurred because everyone is just having so much fun with each other. And I think that’s when the freshmen feel less like freshmen. Because I know when you come in as a freshman, you’re kind of nervous, a little shy, but when you’re on the team, a lot of girls just open up and can be themselves.”