Captains help make last-minute adjustments
Maine East dancers (from left to right) Shanteria Hamilton (obscured), Palisha Ranjit, Alyssa Rufus and Sade Howell perform Friday at the IHSA Class 2A state competitive dance competition at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington. | Clark Brooks~for Sun-
Updated: March 2, 2013 6:26AM
PARK RIDGE — Maine East seniors Sade Howell, Rachel Nieva and Palisha Ranjit met each other at Melzer Elementary School 12 years ago, and quickly formed a friendship which has been strengthened in subsequent years.
After attending Gemini Junior High School together and bonding outside of school, Howell, Nieva and Ranjit have been a fixture in Maine East’s dance program over the last four years. This year, all three were named captains.
Being captains has required all three to perform typical tasks like providing senior leadership, giving positive reinforcement before performances and setting a positive example for the team’s younger dancers. But on Jan. 19, it provided an immense challenge.
On the day before the Palatine Sectional on Jan. 20, freshmen Taylor Alcala (concussion) and Patricia Bogdan (overused arch in foot) were ruled out for the following day’s performance. The responsibility to alter and reorganize the dance primarily fell to choreographer Danielle McDonald, an assistant coach.
But it also required the captains to keep the team calm and focused, and to help answer questions about the dance with one of the season’s biggest performances looming the next day.
“We all had to pitch in,” Ranjit said. “We were all talking, trying to figure out the formations and who goes where. And we had to keep it sane.”
McDonald added: “Our captains, they pretty much took (the lead) in making sure people were paying attention while we were making these changes (and) answering questions if I was working with someone else. ... They really stepped up.”
Maine East’s dance team, which only included eight members after the two injuries, stayed at practice for six hours on Jan. 19 to alter and practice their updated kick routine. Then, the next day, the Blue Demons scored a 69.10 to qualify for state in Class 2A.
Qualifying for state was especially sweet for the captains, all of whom are Morton Grove residents, because of their long history together.
It’s more special “because we’re friends and we’ve been friends for a long time,” Howell said. “We’re now sharing these special experiences of going to state and everything with people that I enjoy spending time with and who I’ve known for a very long time.”
It’s also special because qualifying for the state preliminaries, in which Maine East scored a 55.42 to finish 25th Friday, earned the Blue Demons increased recognition as this is the first year the IHSA has classified competitive dance as a sport.
Howell, Ranjit and Nieva can always say they were the captains who helped the team overcome turmoil and make the school’s first IHSA state appearance. And they did it, like so many other things in their lives, together.
“The three of us have been with each other since freshman year,” Nieva said. “We’re all best friends and we’ve been through a lot on this team. ... (With) it being our senior year and being our first year (recognized) as a sport and being so successful, it means a lot.”