This sports editor has developed ‘awe’ newfound respect for those who dance

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The art of dance, the sport of dance. No matter the interpretation, dance is elegant, tough movement.

This commentary has been three months in the making. In that time, I have witnessed multiple dance events that have truly inspired me and instilled a brand-new respect for the athleticism that is required for the craft. Two of the events were dance competitions that required physical output, synchronicity, precise timing and rhythmic fluidity in front of judges. The third was a performance recital, carried out demonstratively for an appreciative audience, but also requiring those same qualitative dance descriptions – and thus, with no less pressure.

Varsity dance

The dance team from Taos High School competed at the state spirit championships at “The Pit” in Albuquerque in the Class A/4A division against nine other dance teams from around the state March 25. Known as the Taos Classics, this group of 11 Taos High School student-athletes vied for the chance to claim a state title with two routines in two days – accruing a cumulative score granted by multiple judges. Storied programs, such as the “Pony Express” from St. Michael’s High School and the Hope Christian Huskies, were also present and trying to acquire the same glory – but with tradition on their side.

Taos would garner enough points to earn a fourth-place finish with a bold and entertaining dance routine that was akin to the days of hot rods and bebop. Costumes and makeup were edgy and assertive. The Taos Classics engaged their fans by using large swaths of the basketball court to make their point.

An interesting facet to the competition – and what really caught my attention – was the long climb out of The Pit each of the teams had to make after they concluded their dances. When the music ended and the coaches and dancers congratulated each other on the floor of The Pit after their respective presentations, the strain on the faces and the beleaguered breathing showed me that everything was left on the dance floor. Barely able to walk without the aid of the handrails in the isles, the teams took each slow step upward to the mezzanine level to greet their families.

Historically regarded as a school activity, “drill teams” predominantly performed their coordinated dances at the halftime of high school basketball or football games. More of an intramural club, the synchronized routines were put together primarily for entertainment. For a very long time, dance was not considered a “sport.”

Recently, however, governing bodies came to their senses and made the appropriate changes. As an interscholastic sport, schools now can declare their intentions to compete in dance and are subject to assorted rules. The recognition has driven a new era of competitiveness, with teams enlisting quality choreographers to assist with routines and incorporating elaborate costume designs. The upshot of that evolution resulted in a knock-down, drag-’em-out-style state spirit event that has become a fan favorite. It’s awe inspiring.

Ballet

Aside from the obvious difficulty of employing seldom-used muscles and bones in the feet, the combination of turns and flexibility required in ballet makes this activity a truly specialized lesson in strength and mental faculty.

At the 2017 “Spring Gala” held by the Taos Youth Ballet Guild, nine pre-professional dancers in the Taos Youth Ballet program performed contemporary and classical variations of dance at their studio March 31 and April 1. This was my first up-close ballet recital and I was extremely impressed with the resourceful usage of the studio space.

What was witnessed was boundless energy and graceful moves that utilized both floor and air to produce breathtaking intersections of light and muscle. And just like varsity dance, the end of individual or group acts left each performer out of breath, and I was left in breathless awe.

Powwow

Kudos go out to the many powwow dancers who have taken up this particular craft. This past weekend brought a great number of participants vying for monetary prizes and that “perfect performance” that comes from years of study and practice at the 32nd annual Taos Pueblo Powwow July 7-9.

For powwow dancers, the lead-up to a competition entails hours of costume preparation and assembly. Add the many hours traveling on the circuit, and suddenly the avocation or hobby becomes more of a serious life choice that requires a serious level of commitment.

An outdoor powwow like ours puts the dancers in different extremes. Sometimes official welcome speeches and pre-competition ceremonies run long and dancers must endure total exposure to the sun in their regalia. Unexpected weather events (such as the hailstorm that fell on the powwow grounds July 8) expose dancers to other extremes, such as gusty winds and rain. Often, contests go on well into the night, so cold comes into play for those contestants.

The results are stunning. Colors and sounds come together with a heart-thumping rhythm to blast the senses and instill awe.

In any case, the sacrifice made by all the men, women, children and seniors who make that choice to dance becomes a huge benefit to us spectators.

Surely, the decision to enter the dance arena has to be made with careful study and examination with regards to the costs involved. These may include pointe shoes, matching costumes and equipment, studio time, fuel, food, lessons, tutors and coaches. This is no different from many athletes who must pay a heavy price to do activities they love.

To young dancers, keep up the great work and study hard. To each one of you brave souls who are not afraid of pushing your bodies to the max, performing in front of others or paying those dues – monetary and otherwise – you have my utmost respect and admiration.

“Sports Talk” is a periodic commentary from Arcenio J. Trujillo, The Taos News sports editor. If you have an idea or topic for coverage on “Sports Talk,” contact Trujillo at sports@taosnews.com and include your name, contact information and your sports news idea.

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