Having fun with the journey_ Helena Excessive Faculty dance group displays on success – Shelby County Reporter

Having fun with the journey: Helena Excessive Faculty dance group displays on success Printed 10:43 am Wednesday, July 12, 2023

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Written by Stephen Dawkins

Whether or not it’s soccer video games within the fall, basketball within the winter, or excelling in their very own competitions, the Helena Excessive Faculty Dance Group is a important a part of the varsity’s spirit and expertise—and provides considerably to its trophy case.

Jenni Russell got here to HHS at its opening in 2014, began the group and is its coach.

“It was a protracted journey to attending to the place we’re as a result of beginning a group from scratch is tough as a result of it’s a must to construct tradition and construct expectations to the place you need,” stated Russell. “The previous two years, we have now seen lots of development. It’s a credit score to the seniors in 2022; they actually purchased in and altered the general perspective of your complete group. Now our group is hungry they usually work so laborious they usually need to achieve success.”

Russell danced from a younger age within the studio and was on the dance group at Chelsea Excessive Faculty and a member of the colour guard at Auburn. She teaches ninth grade Honors English at Helena Excessive Faculty.

That 2022 dance group made the nationwide finals in Excessive Kick, ending eighth within the nation amongst different achievements. Seniors Ava Carson, Kate Hawes, Natalie Sestili and Abigail Viola have been elementary to this system’s development. Sestili danced for UAB and within the USFL, whereas Hawes is a Common Dance Affiliation employees member and beforehand danced at Auburn College.

The 2023 group constructed upon the inspiration laid the earlier 12 months. At UDA camp at Auburn in June 2022, they earned the “Group Full Out Award”—which is predicated on the group studying a routine then creating choreography to make it their very own—and all Superior Scores. Together with the efficiency got here a bid to Nationals.

The autumn brings performances with the Helena Excessive Faculty band each Friday for Huskies soccer video games and in addition band competitions, certainly one of which at Hewitt-Trussville Excessive Faculty noticed the Dance Group win “Greatest in Class” and rating the best amongst all groups within the competitors.

On the first UDA competitors of the season, on Nov. 19, 2022, in Brandon, Mississippi, the HHS Dance Group was the regional division winner, first place in Excessive Kick and second place within the Sport Day class.

Excessive Kick performances additionally function a kick line, with the dancers performing a jazz or modern routine. There are usually guidelines about what number of kicks have to be included, the routine entails storytelling parts. Sport Day performances, in the meantime, embody three parts associated to particular person faculties: battle music, a spirit elevating routine (the Helena group makes use of a band music with chants designed to hype up the gang), and a efficiency routine, similar to a routine that may be carried out at a pep rally.

In January, the group traveled to Dutchtown, Louisiana, for a UDA competitors that noticed them take second place in Excessive Kick and second place in Sport Day. Then got here the Alabama Regional in January at Thompson Excessive Faculty, the place the HHS Dance Group was second in Excessive Kick and fourth in Sport Day.

The competitors season concluded with Nationals in Orlando, Florida, the place the group missed making finals for Excessive Kick by 0.2 factors. They completed eleventh within the Nation and tallied their finest rating of the season in Sport Day (97.5).

The group additionally had the chance to march within the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York Metropolis on March 17.

An necessary a part of the group’s success is choreographer Maya Johnson of Level Dance Studio.

“She’s been doing it for us since 2017 or 2018 or so, and he or she’s been nice for our evolution,” Russell stated.

As this system continues to develop, so does curiosity among the many scholar physique. Russell stated that in the course of the group’s beginnings, it might embody 10-14 women. The previous couple of years have seen between 18-22 dancers. Competitions function totally different classes for the variety of group members, and Helena now competes within the massive varsity class.

Tryouts have been held in April, and subsequent 12 months’s group has been chosen. It is going to begin with camp in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, on June 12-15. Anybody curious about studying extra in regards to the group, together with sponsorship alternatives or future tryouts, ought to contact Russell at j2russell@shelbyed.org.

“I simply need the neighborhood to know what these women do,” Russell stated. “They work year-round.”


Allie Rae Anderson (Captain)

Anna Kate Sellers (Captain)

Scotlyn Naron

Madison Morris

Sadie Henderson


Molly Robinson

Madison Massone

Reese Sanders

Lauryn Inexperienced

Kenzie Kinsella


Lydia Bagget

Ellie Smalley

Regan Landry


Addison Flynn

Lauren Rothrock

Mary Grace Ratley

Charlee Griffin

Anna Cruce Johnson

Rebecca Wentworth

Harper Tiffin