Assembly Hall hosts state-wide high school dance competition

By David Valdes

Enthusiastic cheers from hundreds of boisterous fans filled Assembly Hall this weekend, but it wasn’t the Fighting Illini that got the rowdy crowd going. Saturday, the venue once again hosted the Illinois Drill Team Association’s state competition, where dance teams from numerous Illinois high schools competed in 31 categories.

Lauren Heffron, a sophomore dancer from Bartlett High School, said the fact that the competition is held at the University of Illinois gives it a much more professional feel.

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“It makes it feel like more a huge deal. You feel much more important,” Heffron said. “You get this thrill all throughout your body.”

Heffron also said that she and her dance team had been preparing for their trip to the University since August. However, she said getting to the University-hosted competition is more important than winning.

“I think it’s more important to get here and just have fun. If we win, we win,” Heffron said.

Koriann Cline, a junior dancer at Bartlett High School, said she agreed with Heffron to an extent.

“I probably think it’d be more fun to win but it’s good to be (at the University) and just appear,” said Cline.

When informed that the University’s very own Illinettes were in the crowd watching and possibly trying to recruit future Illinettes, Heffron and Cline were shocked. However, they said they agreed it was good exposure.

“For people who want to come here, it’s good for the Illinettes to get a look at them,” Cline said.

“I think it’s a really good idea to see the possible incoming talent,” Heffron said. “It gives them a feel for what we can do and who might be coming.”

Kristyn Colacicco, freshman in LAS and an Illinette, said the girls had little to worry about.

“Are we scouting? Not really, but we’re always looking for new talent,” Colacicco said. She explained that their presence was mostly to gain exposure with prospective dancers and let them know that there are outlets for dancers at the college level.

“We had a booth set up where we talked to a lot of (high school) seniors coming to the University,” Colacicco said.

Colacicco said that watching them helped her appreciate her position on the Illinettes as well.

“It shows how lucky we are to be dancing here in college,” she said. “We can definitely relate to them. We are just as nervous as they are and we want them to do well.

April Rawlings, junior in ACES and next year’s co-captain of the Illinettes, said that she could also relate with the high school dancers.

“We did this for four years. We lived this life for a long time,” Rawlings said. She also said the Illinois Drill Team Association state competition is a good place to look for talent.

“You look at schools and you notice them. You think, ‘Wow, we should get those girls,'” she said.

Although Rawling said she was eager to inform high school dancers about dance opportunities at the University, she added that she was concerned about the increasing difficulty of being admitted to the school.

“It’s a lot harder to get into U of I,” said Rawlings. “A lot of high school dancers that we talked to have been declined.”

Still, she said she hopes that girls who are admitted will look into the Illinettes.