Geneva, Naperville dancers win state with 'talent,' 'intensity'

 
 
Updated 1/30/2016 7:00 PM
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  • Barrington High School dancers perform their routine Saturday during the Class 3A IHSA state finals at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington. The team finished fourth.

      Barrington High School dancers perform their routine Saturday during the Class 3A IHSA state finals at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington. The team finished fourth. Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson High School dancers, who placed second in the Class 3A state finals, perform their routine Saturday at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.

      Stevenson High School dancers, who placed second in the Class 3A state finals, perform their routine Saturday at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington. Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • Neuqua Valley High School dancer Lindsey Haag applauds her team's success at winning its second Class 3A state championship in a row after performing Saturday in the IHSA state finals Saturday in Bloomington.

      Neuqua Valley High School dancer Lindsey Haag applauds her team's success at winning its second Class 3A state championship in a row after performing Saturday in the IHSA state finals Saturday in Bloomington. Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • Geneva High School dancers hoist their first-place trophy during the award ceremony for the Class 2A IHSA state finals Saturday at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.

      Geneva High School dancers hoist their first-place trophy during the award ceremony for the Class 2A IHSA state finals Saturday at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington. Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

Suburban competitive dance teams claimed first place in the Class 2A and Class 3A state finals Saturday in Bloomington.

Class 2A winner Geneva High School scored a three-peat of championships and became the first school to win three years in a row since the Illinois High School Association began hosting a state series for competitive dance in 2013, coach Amy Van Wagenen said.

"We had an undefeated season this year," Van Wagenen said about her group of 18 dancers, who grabbed first place with their lyrical performance to "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston. "I truly believe that my girls are some of the most talented dancers in the state."

Class 3A winner Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville claimed victory for the second year in a row with a jazz routine the school's 18 dancers choreographed themselves to Michael Jackson's "They Don't Really Care About Us."

"We really liked that song a lot for its beat and its message and we felt that it was powerful," coach Sonja Rzeszutko said. "The strength of this team was really jazz."

Each of the 19 suburban squads that placed among the top 30 in the state -- 10 in each of three categories based on school size -- found something to celebrate after Saturday's final competition, coaches said.

For Aurora Central Catholic High School, the highest-placing suburban team in the Class 1A division for small schools, the celebration point was improving from last year's eighth-place finish and achieving a team goal of finishing in the top five, coach Terri Varney said.

"A fourth-place finish was the highest we've ever been," she said about her 18 competitors who danced a jazz routine to a cello version of ACDC's "Thunderstruck." "We felt like we were more excited about our placement than the top three teams."

Finishing second in Class 2A, Lake Zurich High School was thrilled to score so well with an unusual dance format -- hip-hop, coach Terri Johlie said.

In the IHSA state series, dances of all styles -- including lyrical, jazz, poms and hip-hop -- are critiqued using one standard score card. Competitions held before the IHSA sanctioned competitive dance separated the styles into their own categories, coaches said.

"For us, it's really also gratifying that hip-hop is able to still stay in there and be competitive with the other styles of dance," Johlie said. "It's a lot more heavily dominated in a way with lyrical and jazz routines."

Lake Zurich dancers also were proud to score so highly with 22 performers -- a higher number than usual. The more dancers, the more difficult it is to get everyone's movements synchronized. Along with technical skills and execution, synchronization counts, coaches said. So does another intangible: intensity.

"Our biggest factor today was really the intensity of the performance and the execution," Neuqua coach Rzeszutko said.

After emerging from a curtain at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, teams competed on a black, rubbery dance floor illuminated with bright lights. Compared with typical high school gyms the dancers are used to, the setup created more of stage effect, Aurora Central Catholic coach Varney said.

All the better to showcase the talents of the best high school dancers in the state.

"It's not easy," Geneva coach Van Wagenen said, "even if they make it look easy."

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