Gilbert ready for State Dance Championships

Three days. More than 250 teams. More than 600 routines. And more than 5,000 competitors.

Welcome to the Iowa State Dance and Drill Team Association (ISDTA) State Dance Championships, the largest of its kind in the nation. It all kicks off Wednesday at Wells Fargo Arena and Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines and concludes on Friday.

Now in its 47th year of existence, the ISDTA State Dance Championships features team competitions, as well as solo performances, and Gilbert High School will be represented in both. Under the direction of Coach Amanda DeLancey, the Gilbert dance team — Taryn Hicks, Reese Anderson, Sophia Bleich, Kirra Heaberlin, Tatum Heaberlin, Danielle Vogel, Delaney Anderson, Jacey Ordal, Ellie Francom, Sarah Fedderson, and Allison Schrader — will compete six times on Thursday. It will showcase its Jazz and Prop routines and all four of its soloists — Reese Anderson, Schrader, Hicks, and Bleich — will perform. On Friday, the Tigers will return to center stage for their Kick routine.

The work began way back in the summer with open gyms three times per week. The official season kicked off in August, and over the past three months DeLancey has pushed her girls to new heights. Meeting every Sunday evening for three to four hours, plus at least once a week before school, the squad has made dance a priority, which is what it takes to score well at state.

“Pretty much all of them are involved in something else, but they prioritize this, which makes it incredible,” DeLancey said. “I never have to ask them to give 100 percent and we haven’t had any attendance problems with practice. That’s the biggest tell of how hard they work.”

And do they work hard.

At a recent Sunday evening practice, it was routine after routine after routine … you get the picture. One routine would end and the girls would collapse to the ground inside the GHS gymnasium, and yet they’d all be smiling as they did so. And after a short break to catch their breath and grab a drink, it was on to the next routine. It’s this type of enthusiasm and dedication that has DeLancey so optimistic in the days leading up to state.

“It’s been said that a two-minute kick routine is the equivalent of running a 5K at a five-minute pace, and they’ll do it five times in a row,” she said. “The don’t care, they just do it again. So it’s been great.”

DeLancey and her dancers hope the countless hours of work when no one was watching translates into high scores later this week. Will it be easy? Hardly. Then again, it shouldn’t be easy.

“My goal is that we can put our best routines out on the floor,” DeLancey said. “I think we have come so incredibly far … Division I ratings across the board is really our big-picture goal, but then a trophy would be a cherry on top for us.”

Dance has become an incredibly popular activity at schools all across the state, and many teams possess individuals that dance outside of school as well. It makes for an extremely entertaining three-day state event, but also a difficult three-day journey to break into the hunt for a top-three finish in each of the divisions.

“You have the whole range of dancers,” DeLancey said. “It’s just a really incredible experience for the girls, and we love going and representing Gilbert. To make Gilbert proud, that’s our goal.”

After the state competition, the Gilbert dance team will turn its attention to its next endeavor — performing at the ReliaQuest Bowl (formerly known as the Outback Bowl) on Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. Gilbert was invited to take part after attending a Just For Kix camp and impressing this past summer.

“They saw the attitudes and hard work ethic of the girls, and then we got the formal invitation,” DeLancey said.

Seven Gilbert dancers will travel with DeLancey to Tampa form Dec. 28 through Jan. 3. The girls will perform prior to the game and at halftime inside Raymond James Stadium. DeLancey performed at the bowl game when she was in high school, so she knows firsthand the excitement that comes with the opportunity.

“My hope is that we can continue to take the girls every four years so that every girl that is out for four years gets the chance to go,” she said. “I’m really excited to take the girls and give them that opportunity to meet dancers from around the country.”

Good luck this week, Gilbert dance team!