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Prairie Heights dance team heads for state finals

It takes a lot of hard work to reach a lofty goal that one sets, whether as an individual or as a team.

The Prairie Heights High School’s dance team, the Pantherettes, set themselves a goal to qualify for state after just missing out last year.

At the northern regional held Feb. 22, the team qualified in two separate categories – Hip Hop and Large Ensemble, taking the top place in the ensemble category and third in Hip Hop.

The state finals are next weekend, March 14 and 15, in New Castle, Ind.

Coach Danica Forbes was a dancer on the team in 2011-2012, and has been excited at the opportunity to coach the team this year. “It has been completely different when I was on the team,” she said in comparing the two roles. “Now as coach, I take all their feelings and how far they are willing to go in consideration.”

“I went to state my senior year. They are always asking about state. They got so excited about it,” Forbes stated. “Ever since tryouts, they’re goal has been to go to state.”

The team has three different routines, the two that earned a trip to the state, and a jazz group routine. They perform at the Prairie Heights High School basketball games and held a mini-dancer camp for grades K-8, with the campers performing a short routine at a game.

Forbes’ mom, Lori, has been there from the start in October, helping with the team. “They missed state by half a point last year,” Lori recalled. “This year, we thought they would make it in the ensemble. That routine is a crowd favorite with its military theme.” The Hip Hop category, which is upbeat, “catches you off guard,” Lori noted. And qualifying for state with that routine caught the team off guard, too. “They pulled it off. It was their best performance of that routine” at regional, she added.

Lori and Danica have both been very thankful for the support shown by the community at the games and through support of the team’s fundraising efforts.

For Danica, the state trip is terrific but she sees another goal. “I want them to love dance like I do. I want them to want it,” she said. “It was a dream to coach. And I never thought it would be my high school team only a half year later.”

Like a lot of good coaches, Danica feels she gets as much from the team as she gives. “They’ve taught me way more than I’ve taught them,” she said. “You have to know the techniques, but you have to know how to care. They all learn differently.”

One thing they want to learn? “They want to know how it feels to go to state,” Danica stated.

And next weekend, they’ll have that opportunity.