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Poplarville dance aiming for state championship

The five dancers moved in unison as they went through the motions of a routine they’ll have to learn for the band’s halftime show this year.

Every step was counted out and meticulously practiced as the athletes went through each motion of the choreography.

Members of Poplarville High School’s dance team are focused on improving their performance this year, not only in the halftime shows, but also at their competitions.

Director Kelsey Campbell looked on as the team continued the routine,

She said that after the placing they received at last year’s competitions, progression is key this year.

“Last year’s competition was a shocker for us,” Campbell said.

“We thought it looked really good going into it.”

However, the squad didn’t get the scores they wanted, so now going into her first year as director, Campbell has made some significant changes.

“Every year the feedback from the judges says we run out of energy, that we need to keep up the energy,” Campbell said.

“To fix that I’ve had them start running, and I’d never ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do, so I run with them.”

The squad hopes the conditioning allows the athletes to maintain the same level of energy throughout their routine.

Starting in August, they had to run two miles each week, and that number will increase with each month as the athletes will start truly preparing for competition season in October.

That’s a far cry from the usual schedule for the squad, with competition preparation beginning in August in the past.

However, Campbell said that delaying the start of that preparation would keep the girls fresh.

“Other teams start in August and they burn out by December, so by pushing that back hopefully they won’t burn out,” Campbell said.

“We’re going to work on technique and what is going into the dance, but not the actual dance itself.”

Now that the competition routines have been postponed slightly, Campbell hopes when the time comes it’ll make the girls work harder.

The squad won the state championship in 2017, and Campbell said that’s the expectation going into this year.

Campbell also wants her athletes to use dance as a way to pursue college opportunities and grow as people.

“My main goal is post secondary, I want dance to be fun, but I also want them to look at their college options,” Campbell said.

“I want them to learn, but I need them to grow.”

Those reasons are why Campbell thinks it’s essential dance programs are available to high school students.

“It’s important because it gets the girls involved,” Campbell said.

“Maybe they don’t like cheer, or soccer and dance gives them something they love, while still teaching those leadership skills.”

There’s a plethora of challenges to face and obstacles to overcome during a dance season.

However, Campbell said being a part of the squad helps the athletes learn what the real world is like.

“I want them to learn how to take that constructive criticism, and responsibility is huge,” Campbell said.

“And I think that’ll stick with them in their everyday life, that’s something they can take with them.”