Fourteen Junior Poms and 11 Senior Variety Argonne All-Star Dance team members competed at the NDA All-Star National Competition in Dallas, Texas last weekend, March 1 through 3.
“This competition is the largest National All-Star competition in the world with 995 competing teams,” said coach Amanda Schnoebelen. There were also five countries represented at the competition.
Schnoebelen, who also coaches the Barton County Community College Danceline, has been involved with the Argonne All-Stars dance program since it started 14 years ago.
“I was actually on the very first team when it started my senior year of high school and my mother, Debbie Warren was the coach,” she said. “Ever since then I have either assisted in coaching the team, I choreographed and taught their routines while I attended college, coached the program after college and then took over three years ago when my mother decided to step down as head coach.”
Rigorous tryouts for both teams were held in May, 2012, and practices began in June. Each team learned their routines in August, and once a week two-hour practices were held up until a month before the contest, and increased to twice a week two and a half-hour practices. She enlisted the help of Kari McElgunn and Chelsey Walters. Both are captains of the Barton Dance Team. In all, Schnoebelen estimates about 80 hours of practice went into the performance of each of the two and a half-minute routines.
In February, both teams performed their routines for an audience at the GBHS boys basketball home game against Buhler on Feb. 5, and again on Feb. 13 during half time for the BCC women’s game against Hutchinson.
Meanwhile, parents and dancers alike put in several hours of service to Argonne, the sponsoring entity, by running all facets of the Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon bingo games held at the Argonne bingo hall in Great Bend. Each dancer worked in the concessions stand and helped clean several times over the course of the year from July and will continue to through June, and parents were asked to serve twice as many times, calling bingo and selling cards.
The girls boarded a bus to Dallas Thursday morning, Feb. 28 from BCCC. On Friday, they checked in with NDA at the Dallas Convention Center, practiced, and enjoyed a brief sightseeing tour to Dallas Aquarium and met up with parents at the Trail Dust Steakhouse for a team dinner that evening. Saturday, both teams completed their preliminary dances, which would count for 25 percent of their score for the weekend. It was their first chance to see what the competition had in store.
Teams from all over the country, as well as five international teams were competing for trophies and the coveted championship jackets.
“I feel the girls got an enormous learning experience that will benefit them greatly,” said Kristin Pumford, mother of Junior Pom dancer Faith Pumford, “It was exciting and inspiring and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing them strategizing, as a team, to do their very best.”
According to the National Dance Alliance website, the program is committed to developing excellence in dancers. “We teach leadership development, strong support of school athletic teams, pursuit of excellence in technical skills, and the always important teamwork.”
On Sunday, March 3, the teams’ final performances would count for the remaining 75 percent of their final score. Battling nerves and minor injuries, the girls donned costumes, did stage makeup, and completed their looks with their signature hairstyles, and made their way to the convention center where they would wait for their turn on the practice stage and then enter the queue.
In the end, the Jr. Pom team placed 9th with a final score of 8.031. The Sr. Variety team placed second with a final score of 7.927
Competing in Dallas was a very exciting opportunity for the team, said Terri Sinclair, mother of Junior Pom Kimberlyn Sinclair.
“In addition to performing in this large venue, the girls were able to be spectators as well, watching dance and cheer teams that traveled from as far as Tokyo, Japan,” she said. “This was an amazing experience for those involved.”
The dancers felt both exhilarated to be there, but also at times intimidated by the quality of the groups they competed against.
“The competition was intense,”said Lauren Penka, a Senior Variety dancer. “But when we danced our final performance on Sunday, I could tell that we’d done the absolute best we’d ever done.”
This was the second year in a row the team competed at the NDA National competition. While the Nationals aren’t what they set their sights on every year, Schnoebelen said they compete at regionals, classics or spirit competitions. For variety, they’ve also performed aboard a cruise ship where they were billed as part of the entertainment. While the trophies and designations are something to be proud of, they aren’t the most important thing the girls get out of participating on the team.
Pumford said through Argonne, her daughter has learned many new skills and self disciplines.
“It has increased her work ethic and taught her a lot about working with, supporting and getting along with others,” she said. “I am extremely proud of her and all of the girls that competed.”