Photo by Jeylin White
Candace Smith (center), of the Forest Park High School “Pantherettes” dance team, focuses on getting her dance moves right, in preparation for the upcoming national dance competition in Orlando, Fla. The team was surprised to qualify for “the nationals” in just its first year.
By Jeylin White
Thao Nguyen and Gina Le, both 18, are team captains for the Forest Park High School Pantherettes, and are anxiously awaiting an upcoming, national dance competition in a few months.
“I’m excited, but nervous,” said Nguyen.
Why the gitters? This is the first year Forest Park High School has had a dance team, said Pantherettes dance coach, Melissa Colon. And, this will be the team’s first major dance competition, she added.
“To be honest, I was very shocked our team qualified for nationals our first year,” said Colon.
The team is scheduled to compete in the National Dance Alliance competition March 3-4, in Orlando, Fla.
Colon said that, in order for a dance team to qualify, it has to submit a tape of a performance to the dance organization. She said the team was notified of its selection before the Christmas holiday break.
Now that the Pantherettes have been selected, the team has to raise $3,000 for a charter bus, and to cover other expenses. So far, Colon said, the girls have raised $800 by selling coupon books and asking for donations from family members and friends.
“Fund-raising is probably one of the hardest things to do,” she said.
To help the cause, today –– from 5 p.m., to 8 p.m. –– the team will host a “Chick-Fil-A Spirit Night” fund-raiser at the Forest Park Dwarf House, located at 1134 Main St., in Forest Park.
Colon said those who come to the restaurant during those hours and mention they are with Forest Park –– when ordering food –– will see their purchases benefit the dance team.
“They [Chick-Fil-A] will donate 15 percent of the checks to us,” Colon said. “I’m really hoping this fund-raiser will come through for [our team].”
Forest Park freshmen, Jocelyn Monroe, 15, Candace Smith, 15, and Jade Wright, 16, are former members of Colon’s Babb Middle School Dance Dawgs.
“We are not nervous,” said the three, simultaneously. “We’ve been through this before, but we always manage to come up with what we need,” they said, almost in unison.
Forest Park seniors, Nguyen and Le –– who have been best friends since seventh-grade –– said attending the national competition is important to the girls and the school.
“This is our last year,” said Nguyen, “and we want to be good role models for our younger teammates.”
For the past three weeks, Colon said, the girls have been practicing their dance routines faithfully, making sure they will be ready when they hit the national stage. They will perform a “hip-hop routine” and a “high-kick routine,” at the competition.
Colon said the theme for the team’s performance will be “disgruntled brides,” fashioned after the movie “27 Dresses,” starring Katherine Heigl and James Marsden.
“Always a bridesmaid and never a bride,” she said, jovially.