By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Hudson – They don’t lift weights, kick oblong objects through goal posts or use sticks as scoring implements. They don’t crash into boards, throw circular objects through hoops or even draw the greatest number of spectators. Theirs is not a conventional sport, but don’t try to tell the Hudson High School (HHS) dance team that their chosen competition is any less challenging or any less worthy of being designated a high school sport.
Dance has been around Hudson High since 2013 when Coach Kelly Haley began an initiative in conjunction with the school’s athletic director to make dance a varsity sport. The team has been self-funded for the past four years until finally recognized by Massachusetts Secondary Schools Administrators Association (MSSAA) and HHS administration as a sport which opened the door for competition at the varsity level last year.
Dance at the high school competitive level is more rigorous and demanding than one may think. Their choreographed performances require agility, stamina, coordination, a strong sense of teamwork and a nearly year-round commitment. High school dancers are well-trained, highly spirited and express a strong passion for what they do. Most like Hawk senior captains Alyson Haley and Hannah Farrell began to learn dance at the age of 3 and neither has looked back since.
“Sometimes the lack of recognition bothers me some,” Alyson admitted. “Even though we may not be professional status, we still put in a lot of hard work into it. I get a little frustrated when people say that dance isn’t a real sport. I’m at the studio at least 10-12 hours a week and that’s just regular dance classes and not team competition classes. That’s more than or equal to the time that some teams at the high school practice a week.”
“We have some girls on the team who have danced since they were three years old and we have some kids on the team who have never danced before,” said Coach Haley, Alyson’s mother. “They all work really hard and they put their all into it. In addition to competing, they danced at a football game this year, pep rallies and a talent show that we’ve run for the last seven years at the elementary school. This dance team has opened the show the last three years. It gives the kids more exposure.”
Both Hannah and Alyson have been on the team for five years and have been co-captains the past three seasons which are typically fall but can carry over into winter and spring. Each is a member of the National Honor Society and active in their dance studio Dance on Dance Center in Hudson. There, they compete and also serve as role models to younger, aspiring dancers. Both take their captain roles seriously and are committed to the program’s success.
“Being a captain, you run the dances when the choreographer isn’t there and make sure everyone’s in good spirits and having fun,” said Alyson. “For me, dance is fun and I don’t want people on my team to think that this is a chore.”
“When you dance it pretty much brings you to feeling peace,” Hannah said in explaining the process and effects of dance competition. “The stories that we can tell through our dances can be powerful and moving. A lot of times there’s a theme to the dance and that makes it fun. We get to pick what we dance to for the most part but we often pick the songs and choreograph it.”
The Hawk dancers compete against larger schools such as Newton, Needham, Hingham and Weymouth so travel is a necessity. It has only been recently that the team has been provided transportation relieving the burden of traveling to venues on their own. There were 17 dancers on the team a season ago and Coach Haley and others are hoping to see the numbers grow particularly with Alyson and Hannah graduating next spring.
“These two girls in the last two years have shouldered a lot of responsibility as far as keeping this team going and promoting it,” she said. “They put a lot into it.”
Besides dance as an all-consuming activity, both Alyson and Hannah find time for other activities during the summer months. Alyson is a lifeguard and swim instructor at Bicentennial Beach in town while Hannah has joined in the Maine to Key West bike ride for Adaptive Sports Awareness.