MANCHESTER - When the Burr and Burton Academy dance team hosts their first competition of the season on Jan. 11, they will have youth and experience on their side.

Two years ago about three-quarters of the team was composed of seniors resulting in last year being a rebuilding season. That may pay off for the Bulldogs this year though as there are only two seniors - Hannah Hart and Bree Lalor - on this year's team. The rest of the team is composed of four juniors - Lauren MacKenzie, Alexa Beach, Eden Hubert, and Emily Lear - and sophomores Tori Parker, Hannah Phillips, Jessica Casey, Emily Sheehan, and Julia Hansen.

While the varsity team has seen a slight drop in numbers from 14 students to 12, BBA dance coach Erika Bearor said this year's team is not only young, but talented as well.

Junior Alexa Beach is one of the 11 members who will make up Burr and Burton Academy’s dance team this year. The team will host the first competition
Junior Alexa Beach is one of the 11 members who will make up Burr and Burton Academy's dance team this year. The team will host the first competition of the season on Jan. 11 at 1 p.m. at BBA. (Gary Baker photo)

"This season I have girls who are far more motivated and committed to the team I think. Not that they weren't last year, but I just see a very positive team in front of me, which is half the battle," said Bearor. "I have great talent on this team and incredible potential within their dancing abilities. So, if I can just hone in on the things that they need to strengthen I think that we can have a fantastic season. I'm really looking forward to it."

The team has already learned an entire half time routine - something Bearor said is something that typically does not happen before the school's first home basketball game.

One challenge Bearor said she believes she will have with the team this season will be teaching them the "technicality of dance." For example, Bearor said that there are some of members of the team that need to focus on things like turns and toe touches, among others.

Another challenge, she said, will be trying to determine what the judges are looking for in a dance routine since it is a very subjective sport. Trying to determine that is something Bearor said is not only difficult for the students, but for her as a coach as well because in the beginning of the season she is the one creating all the dance choreography, which is a large portion of how the team is scored. As a result of that, she said she spends a lot of time trying to put together a solid routine for the girls - something she admits can be difficult at times.

"Every judge likes a different style so it tends to be difficult to find that happy medium for everybody that's on the panel," said Bearor. "I think as a coach it is the most difficult part and a lot of the time it's difficult for the girls to understand why the judges judged them how they have. So, sometimes they really wish they can talk to the judges to better understand what they need to improve upon."

After receiving feedback from the judges, Bearor said the team spends a lot of time talking about the scoring and then they try to improve based on the feedback for the next competition. If that doesn't work in the next competition, Bearor said the team then makes a new "game plan."

While there is at least one judge out of a panel of three that is at every competition BBA attends throughout the regular season, Bearor said she believes they try to alternate the judges so that they are not getting the same feedback at each competition. Furthermore, Bearor said she believes the state has put together a good collection of judges that can really benefit the students.

"The judging panel has definitely grown over the five years that I've been coaching, which is fantastic because they all have different dance backgrounds and can give really solid feedback for you to work on," said Bearor. "So, like I said it can be a subjective sport, but I think the state of Vermont has done an incredible job finding judges that are highly qualified to be doing what they're doing and that's great for our students because we can learn a lot from the judges, which is great."

The dance team will open their season at BBA on Jan. 11 beginning at 1 p.m.