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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Mead dance team places at State Championships

For the first time, the Mead High School dance team placed fourth at the Washington State Dance/Drill Championships on March 23.

The highest rank in the program’s history came after a mass revitalization during the 2021-22 dance season, spearheaded by Coach Angela Pierson, who took over the team that school year.

“Our team leveled up,” said dance captain Audrey Williams of the season Pierson took over.

Pierson, class of 2009, was part of the dance team during her time as a student at Mead . She has moved back to Spokane after living and working in New York.

“At first, it was certainly odd,” Pierson said. “I never dreamt I’d be back at my old high school in any capacity. I thought I’d leave and never look back when I moved to New York, but no, it’s been really neat to revitalize and refresh the program.”

Now, she coaches the Mead dance team while choreographing and performing in local theater productions, recently making her directorial debut in Eastern Washington University’s “The Prom.”

The team placed fourth in the hip-hop dance category, which is one new element Pierson brought to the table.

“When I came in, I refreshed it and have done more hip-hop, which is what we did so well with that state,” Pierson said. “When I was on (the team), we didn’t do hip hop.”

Dance captain Mackenzie Ediger said it has been a dramatic change since their pandemic season, when the team had to rehearse over Zoom and only had two performances.

“We were trying to hold on to the scraps of dance while learning through Zoom and basically holding on to whatever we could during the pandemic,” Ediger said.

When Pierson became coach during Ediger’s sophomore year, the dancers finally felt like they could hone their techniques.

“We were now actually learning and training as dancers instead of just for enjoyment,” she said.

To Ediger, Pierson is an inspiration both as a dancer and as a person

“I was a very introverted, little, shy kid sophomore year, and Angela, as a coach, just embodies confidence in owning your space,” Ediger said. “She instilled so much confidence into us, but she really grew our technique and our technical skills as dancers, along with our performance skills.”

The learning curve was no easy task. The team had morning workouts before school, starting as early as 6 a.m. when it was “crunch time,” Ediger said.

After growing the dancers’ technical skills, this season, Pierson focused on improving uniformity and precision. Since Pierson has worked with many of the dancers for three years, she said this year had a special feeling of cohesion and fluid, practiced processes.

The team’s dance at state was one of their best performances, Williams said.

“When we were on the floor, we all hit it harder than we’ve ever hit it in years, probably,” she said. “I don’t know if any of us were breathing while we were dancing. And at the very end as we hit the last pose, you could just see everyone’s faces light up with the biggest grins.”

Though the dance went phenomenally, the team was still shocked when Mead was announced as placing fourth in hip hop.

“You never know how these will go,” Pierson said. “It’s a total gamble. And I took a different approach by kind of simplifying my choreography, so it was very clean and crisp, so it can go one of two ways.”

The team’s goal was to place in the top 10, Ediger and Williams said. But when fifth place was announced and Mead wasn’t called, the team began comforting one another, fearing they didn’t place.

“We were all in a little circle just saying ‘it’s OK,’ you know, ‘we did fine, good job’ ” Ediger said. “We felt good about what happened, that’s all that matters. And then fourth place happened and I think I was the first one to scream.”

The rest of the team soon followed suit, screaming and running across the floor in their bright costumes (styled after characters from “The Lorax” in a tournament tradition), to receive the award.

“It was just really special,” Pierson said. “I really loved it for the girls so that they could feel their hard work paid off and then understand to trust the process that we work so hard for throughout the season, because it is a long season. It’s longer than any sports season because we go throughout the whole year, basically.”

At their Spring Show on Friday, the team will celebrate their season and, for seniors, their years on the team.

“This team is my whole heart, and I’m super excited to bring the season to an end with all of them at our little finale and just enjoy being on the floor with each other one last time,” Williams said.

The team will perform the three dances from state, two assembly pieces, two dances choreographed by the seniors and one final, full-team number that reuses choreography from the first dance the team did together during the 2021-22 season, Williams said.

“This show is the culmination of a year’s worth of insanely hard work,” Williams said, “of waking up at 5 in the morning to get to school two hours before it starts and throwing yourselves into dance to the point where everyone’s red in the face and can’t breathe. These are dances that we’ve worked on for a year and they have some insane things that everyday people can’t do.”

The program is in excellent hands, Ediger said. She knows that after she, Williams and the other seniors graduate this year, their younger teammates and Pierson will continue the momentum their team has gained over their time in high school.

“Our coach, Angela Pierson, is the drive that has brought our team success and to where we are today,” Williams said. “None of what this team has become would have been accomplished without her as our fearless leader and coach.”

Friday’s Spring Show is in the Mead High School gym at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door and go toward funding for the dance program.