The North County Raiderettes will return to National Dance Alliance (NDA) National Championships this year, having spent the summer preparing for the upcoming season’s many competitions and performances.
The Raiderettes’ season runs year-round, beginning in March. After tryouts, the team worked on conditioning and technique practices through the end of the school year. In May, they learned their first routine for nationals and spent the summer practicing and perfecting it, conditioning the whole time.
The dance team competed at camp this summer, giving them the chance to put their nationals routine on the floor for the first time.
“The camp we attend is a pretty unique, intense, competitive experience,” said Raiderettes Head Coach Ashley Douglas about NDA Elite Camp, held at St. Louis College of Pharmacy. “National competitors from across the country travel to attend this camp. As a result, the atmosphere is very competitive.”
Douglas said while the group was there to learn new material, work on technique, learn choreography for football season, and bond as a team, the girls spent four solid days competing against other teams and individually.
“Our team this year really surpassed all of the expectations that we had for them,” she said.
Douglas said that a group of teenage girls spending four days together, 24 hours a day, in a very high-pressure, intense environment could potentially yield some drama, but not with this team.
“They leaned on each other, supported each other, and praised each other the entire time,” she said. “We truly believe that was one of the main reasons, besides their insane work ethic, that we came out on top this year.”
After camp in July, they began prepping for football season.
“We’re working on football routines, sideline and spirit-raising routines, and beginning work on our other nationals routines simultaneously throughout the fall,” explained Douglas. “When football season is over, we have our annual Variety Show in November, which is a big community event.”
The team will continue practicing their national routines throughout fall and winter, preparing for basketball halftime performances. The Raiderettes’ competition season begins in January, when they will compete regionally three to four times.
State championships are held in February. The Raiderettes hold nine state titles and two overall Missouri class 2A state champion titles. The NDA National Championships are held in March in Orlando, Florida.
About two weeks after the NDA competition, tryouts are held for the upcoming season, and the cycle of training, performing, and competing begins again. The Raiderettes perform at all home football and basketball games and compete at the regional, state and national levels.
This is Douglas’s seventh year as head coach and leads the team along with Assistant Coach Leslie McClain.
This is the 49th year of the Raiderette Dance Team program, which was established in 1970.
Over the years, the dance team has earned many awards at state and national competitions.
Some of the team’s recent achievements at NDA camp include taking first place in Medium Varsity Elite Team Dance and Small Varsity Team Leader, Elite Team Dance – Superior rating, Home Routine – Superior rating, and Innovative Choreography for Home Routine, among others.
Merit ribbons are awarded to individual dancers throughout camp. NDA staff members award technique, showmanship and spirit ribbons to dancers who stand out. If a dancer excels in all three areas and exhibits leadership qualities, she can be nominated for NDA All-American, which requires an audition before gaining the title. A dancer can only try out if she is nominated by NDA staff.
The dance team has All-American Nominees including Gianna Pettus, Erin Gantz, Savanna Hosking, Jenna Landolt, and Mackenzie Whitwell. Pettus, Gantz, and Hosking are also NDA All-Americans.
It is a very high honor to even be nominated, Douglas said. After auditions, NDA staff members select NDA All-Americans based on their solo audition, performance, attitude, and work ethic throughout the entire camp. The girls are being watched the entire time at camp as to how they interact with their team and other teams.
“We are very proud to have five All-American nominees this year, and then three girls named NDA All-Americans,” Douglas said. “Another set of awards we are very proud of was having three girls from our team recognized as Pin-It Forward recipients.”
Pin-It Forward is a program at camp where staff members select campers who stand out as being helpful, positive, genuine, and displaying of great character. They gift them with a pair of pins, and each dancer is to “pin-it forward” to another camper for the same reasons the next night. On the next night, dancers from other teams selected three of the North County team’s dancers to receive these awards. Those dancers were Erin Gantz, Adriana Bosch, and Taylor Smith.
“This was one of our prouder moments from camp as we pride ourselves on our girls being both great dancers and great people,” said the team coach. “So we were happy that was on display and that our girls were showing such great sportsmanship to other teams.”
This summer the team will once again return to the NDA National Championships in Orlando, Fla. This will be the team’s fifth year attending the national competitions.
In 2017, the Raiderettes placed fifth in the nation in the Large Varsity Team Performance category. In 2018, they repeated their fifth-place finish in the Large Varsity Team category.
At the 2019 NDA competition, the team climbed to fourth place in the nation in Large Varsity Team Performance and placed fourth in the nation in Small Varsity Kick, which was their first time competing in that category.
This year, the team is eager to continue their climb to the top in Team Performance, Kick, Jazz, and GameDay.
“We are so excited to represent our school and our entire area once again at the national level and continue to put North County on the map. We definitely could not do any of the things we do without the support of our generous community. We are so thankful for our community’s support of our program and can’t wait to make everyone proud,” Douglas said.
Up next for the dance team is football season.
“The girls are so proud to uphold the many traditions that football season entails, including the giant poms and white boots and velvets on Friday nights,” said Douglas.
Douglas went on to announce that the team’s annual Prince & Princess competition kicks off on Labor Day and will culminate at their annual Variety Show in November.
“We appreciate the community supporting our many upcoming fundraisers,” the coach said.