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Winter varsity dance team shines at UDA nationals despite budget cuts

Instagram: @nnhsdanceteam
Members of the Dance team pose in front of the ESPN globe for picture after competing, Saturday, Feb. 2.

The dance team’s 2023-24 winter season, despite having its fall season cut due to budget constraints, proved to be a standout chapter in North history. The Tigers’ relentless dedication landed them in Orlando, Florida, where they competed in the Universal Dance Association (UDA) National Championship from Feb. 2-4. The team’s performance in the semi-finals earned them a commendable 15th place overall in the medium varsity hip-hop category, a huge improvement from last year’s Nationals debut, where they finished 33rd overall and did not qualify for the semi-finals.

“Over half the teams don’t move on from prelims to semi-finals,” said senior Lydia Pelis, a captain along with seniors Maddy Atwood and Caileigh Calabro. “So when it was announced, everyone was so excited, and it was really just the best feeling.”

According to Pelis, due to budget constraints, the dance team’s typical fall and winter seasons were consolidated into solely a winter season. This decision was communicated to them in late spring of 2023, prompting adjustments to their usual schedule. Additionally, returning members of the team participated in UDA dance camp over that summer to help qualify for the upcoming National Championship.

“Nationals was actually our first competition which was super scary because all the other teams at Nationals had a fall season,” said Pelis. “You would think it would set us back a lot but we worked really hard and pushed ourselves to be even better.”

Caroline Nunberg, the current head coach, has a personal history with the team having been a member during her time as student. According to Nunberg, this prompted her to take on the role of coach starting in 2017.

“This season, although it’s felt short, has been just as fulfilling and rewarding as other seasons in the past, if not more,” said Nunberg. “The talent truly gets better and better, and the team continues to impress me.”

Along with their grit and compassion, the team brought their sharp dance moves, expressive facial expressions, and remarkable outfits with them to the Nationals dance floor. According to Pelis, certain moves in the team’s routine even involved lifting teammates onto shoulders or executing impressive upside down flips.

“Dance is very much a team sport, and when we do tricks during our routine, you have to place your trust into the person carrying you and also completely rely on the rest of the team to do their part,” said Pelis.

Before Nationals, the team made an effort to share everything from practices to team dinners, fostering a strong sense of unity that resembled family, according to Pelis.

“This team is like a family to me and they are basically all my sisters,” said Pelis. “The people who I’ve been with for years are my best friends and the underclassmen are like my little sisters, I’m so glad I met all of them.”

This year, the team had six seniors, many of whom have been part of the team and under the coach’s guidance since their freshman year at North, according to Calabro

“I’m going to miss all the times in practice when we would just laugh and goof off with each other,” said Calabro. “And also winning competitions with this team after working so hard. It’s just so rewarding and truly the best feeling.”

One of the toughest challenges in qualifying for Nationals was raising the necessary funds to cover travel and participation expenses, according to Calabro from Aug. to Feb., the team dedicated countless days to fundraising efforts, spending hours reaching out to community members for donations. Through these initiatives, they successfully raised nearly $30,000, allowing them to plan for their trip.

“We got to see some really amazing teams perform and enjoyed some well-deserved fun at Disney & Universal, ” said Nunberg. “I am really proud of all that we’ve accomplished as a team this year, and I’m grateful for the support we’ve had along the way.”

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