Known for their talented moves at football games and show-stopping performances at pep rallies, the Patriot Dancers team started six years ago in 2016.
Along with the pep band, Patriot Dancers perform at 12 football games and four basketball games, showcasing new choreography routines for every game. In addition to the mentioned school events, they also perform at various out-of-school events such as Art in the Park, the Choreographer’s Ball through Developing Dreams Foundation and an FAU basketball game.
Mrs. Cecilia Case became the Patriot Dancers coach four years ago due to her experience as co-captain of her college dance team: the FAU Fly Girls.
“I loved my time on that team, so I really wanted to bring that element to Heritage’s dance department when it needed it the most. Right after Ms. Brown left us, they were looking for a coach and I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to step in and start working with the high school dancers on a different level,” Mrs. Case said.
In addition to coaching the Patriot Dancers, she also serves as the 4th-8th grade dance teacher, junior and senior dance ensemble instructor, as well as the advisor for the Miracle Network Dance Marathon, a dance club that raises money for Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
“I joined Patriot Dancers my freshman year because of the legacy of it. I knew that they perform at pep rallies and also wanted to join because a lot of people I knew were in it. [The past four years] have been really hard and eye-opening. I didn’t realize how much work goes in football games. [As captain] I try to expand my teaching skills because not everyone learns the same way I do,” senior Patriot Dancers co-captain Connie Phelan said.
Interested dancers go through a selective audition process to officially join the team, which currently has 20 dancers. “There is an audition process. This past year I was able to bring in alumni, not only to do a choreography piece, but also to be the judges. [The dancers] are graded on their kickline as well as a hip-hop combination. So it’s how fast they can pick up choreography and if they can pick up the style that we represent as the Patriot Dancers,” Mrs. Case said.
Classical training is not required of the dancers, but they must have experience in hip-hop, jazz, ballet and acrobatics. All of the dancers in the after school club also take dance classes at school, and some dance at private studios.
“I joined the Patriot Dancers in my sophomore year. It’s really cool to see the different perspectives of dance through different types of dancers. It was different working with [the band] at first, the way the band plays the music and the way dance works is different, but when you mesh it together it turns into this different art form and it’s beautiful to watch,” senior Patriot Dancers co-captain Cameron Greaux said.
All of the dances come from the dancers on the team. “For the games we have our two captains. They choreograph based off of past years’ choreography from other captains as well as myself and their own [additional] choreography,” Mrs. Case said.
The team itself contains dancers at various levels, ranging from level 2 all the way to company, the highest level of dancers at school. Patriot Dancers practice every Thursday for an hour and fifteen minutes, as well as before football games. They also practiced in the summer during band camp.
“We do our final week of band camp from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. We did workouts on the track and on the field with the band. Then, we’d come in [the dance room] to learn choreography, and we’d move in the evenings to do formations with the band,” Mrs. Case said.
The Patriot dancers officially merged with the pep band four years ago and perform dances while the band provides the music element. “The team can see how college is set up. Most college teams dance with their band on the field. We have now just modeled it like in FAU and FIU where they are completely immersed into the band world,” Mrs. Case said.
Along with football games, the patriot dancers are known for their performances at school pep rallies. “Something new this year is that we are auditioning for our pep rally dance, so [they] have to earn [their] spot in the pep rally because it is the highlight of the season,” she said.
In the future, Mrs. Case aims to introduce a competition element—in addition to their usual performances—where the team will compete against other studios, dance teams and schools such as North Broward Prep and Somerset Academy that have nationally-ranked teams.