PCMS Dance Team Is Finding Its Rhythm

Writer / Melissa Gibson
Photography Provided

Jeri Amos was a dancer for 11 years and enjoyed taking classes in jazz, ballet and tap. When she entered high school, Amos participated in cheerleading and color guard. She knows the hard work and fun atmosphere of the dancing community, and when it came time for her daughter, Kate, to enter middle school, Amos saw an opportunity for young students in Plainfield.

“I work at Plainfield Community Middle School in special education and I knew about the Plainfield High School dance program,” Amos says. “When my daughter, a dancer of 12 years, entered middle school, I really wanted to create a good feeder program into the high school.”

In 2017 they started as a club. Anyone could join, and they performed at basketball and football games and held one performance for friends and family.PCMS Dance Team

They were having fun, but in Indiana dance is not recognized as a sport, as it is in other states. However, under the Indiana High School Dance Team Association (IHSDTA), the team falls under classifications like other sport classifications based on the size of the school.

In addition, Plainfield Community School Corporation is able to establish a club as a sport if interest and data is there to support the program.

Three years later, as the club continued to develop, the dance club became a dance competition team, giving students the option of trying out for competition or performing at games recreationally.

“The year we started competitive dance was the year of the pandemic,” Amos says. “The data was there, the interest was there and we were ready to present to the school board, making the club an official sport at PCMS. COVID put everything on hold for a year, but by the fall of 2021 we were official.”

What’s the difference between cheerleading and dance?

Amos says technical competition involves arm and leg placement, the accuracy of turns, advanced choreography and more. They do use poms in some performances, but the focus is more on dance than cheer gymnastics techniques.

“Competitive dance is a pretty big commitment,” Amos says. “We practice two days per week and sometimes on Saturday. Once we hit December it can be two full days over the weekend, every other weekend through early March.”

Optional practices begin in the summer. They don’t work on permanent routines for the season at that point. Amos wants to give the ladies time to bond, keep their skills at competitive level and experience some challenging opportunities.

That bonding time is important for young women in their tween years.

“It’s a big change moving from elementary to middle school,” Amos says. “Some of the girls struggle with expectations like making sure you have everything for practice. You have to keep up on the information sent to your email, or details about what we’re wearing at the upcoming performance.”

As with most sports and programs offered at school, the dance team instills responsibility, time management and teamwork.

Those appointed as captains have additional responsibilities as role models and mentors to the younger dancers, giving the eighth-graders a chance at leadership and serving as an example for others.

Some participants find a passion they may not have noticed before.PCMS Dance Team

“Several girls have found their love for dance,” Amos says. “They might have taken a dance class when they were younger, but have now joined a studio for lessons.”

Competitions consist of both solo and ensemble dance routines.

In 2022, one PCMS dancer won state at the IHSDTA competition for the junior-high solo event. The pom team took home second place at regionals and third place at state.

Despite their hard work and consistent path toward success, sometimes things don’t go as planned. In 2023, the middle school dance team took home first place at regionals for a pom performance, but when they went to the state competition, things didn’t go as planned.

“We went out to eat before our performance and there was some type of food poisoning,” Amos says. “They were literally backstage doubled over. We weren’t sure we’d make it, but in the end every dancer got out there and did their best. We ended up in seventh place and the difference between fourth and seventh was half of a point.”PCMS Dance Team

Toughing it out is just one example of how the young ladies learn to work as a team. One or two missing members can make an entire routine less effective, and knowing this, they each chose to fight through the urge to give up.

As the team has developed into an official sport, other changes have been made over the years.

Amos has Aubrey Miles, Plainfield graduate and experienced dancer, teaching choreography, and her daughter is volunteering as an assistant coach, teaching routines to the team.

They’ve also been able to purchase new uniforms. “For the first couple of years we used hand-me-downs from the high school, but last year we were able to pick out our own new uniforms, which was really special for us,” Amos says.

Will they all go on to join the dance team at Plainfield High School? Maybe not, but Amos believes the foundation she’s building with the middle schoolers will take them far.

“It’s more about finding out what they want to do,” she says. “I don’t think they’ll all be dancing through high school, but maybe they’ll find show choir as a good match or something will click with color guard. It’s about encouraging them to find their niche and what they enjoy doing.”

This December, the PCMS dance team will perform a showcase or parent preview night prior to launching a season of competitions and traveling.

It serves as a dress rehearsal, particularly because half of the team is nearly always incoming sixth-graders, and they haven’t participated in a performance in the past.

They’ll also raise funds for travel and competition costs through a Spirit Night Car Wash and popcorn fundraisers.

PCMS Dance Team“The school helps with the cost, but for the solo competitions and traveling we have to raise funds,” Amos says. “I don’t ever want to turn anyone away, and in the past we’ve always been able to work it out. They know they have to work for it and it’ll all be worth it in the end.”

In addition, every person on the team is important to the overall success and they know it.

“If we’re missing someone at the last minute, it’s like we’ve worked so hard and it all falls apart because everyone’s part matters,” Amos says.

As each season comes to an end, Amos is struck by how successful the dance team has become and how they’ve grown.

“This is a great group of girls and I always cry at the end of every year,” Amos says. “I’m so impressed to see how far we’ve come and it’s all about them having fun, knowing they did their best, and even though there were challenges throughout, maybe they’ll remember this for the rest of their lives.”

Visit Plainfield Community Middle School on Facebook @QuakersMiddle for weekly updates.

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