Spin in their win: Kent-Meridian hip hop team takes state contest

The Kent-Meridian High School Dynasty Dance Team took home the state championship in for their hip-hop routine. From left are Angelica Villarvel

The Kent-Meridian High School Dynasty Dance Team took home the state championship in for their hip-hop routine. From left are Angelica Villarvel

It's been a while since Kent-Meridian High School has been able to celebrate a state championship, but a new Royal Dynasty may be the beginning.

With an undefeated record throughout the three-month season, the school's Royal Dynasty Hip-Hop Dance team was a step ahead of the competition all year and then secured its place as the top crew in the state, with a first-place finish at the March 28 championships in Yakima.

“When they played our music, I fell out,” said Keelan Johnson, referring to the dance competition's method of announcing champions - not through team name, but music selection.

Johnson is a third-year member of the team, which last year finished seventh at the state championships.

According to advisor Christina Spencer, the difference maker this year was “chemistry.”

“We didn't have the right mixture of people and abilities,” Spencer said of the status of things past. “But now we've got people that can do different things in different ways.”

On top of that, the team cites the unique choreography developed by Johnson and Anthony Maralit as helping push them over the top.

Maralit, a self-described freestyle dancer, said he wasn't interested in the team at first, but was recruited by student and team member Geraldine Enrico and saw potential. Maralit and Johnson have very different styles of dancing, but together it works.

Maralit describes his style as “intricate and smooth” and hits beats one may not hear in the music, while Johnson's dancing style is a little more traditional in count, but still “out of control” and “buck wild.”

“A lot of team, they like being cute, but I hate being cute,” Johnson said.

Put together, the team's dances are unlike any of the competitors'.

“They bring something special,” said dance coach Erin Hocevar. “I knew that whatever they created, the rest of the team wanted.”

Spencer also highlighted the difference between the Royal Dynasty team and studio dancers or cheer dancers.

“We are a polished street dance,” she said.

The team also tries to choose music no one else would select, preferring “underground” songs, mixed together by Johnson.

But the Royal Dynasty dancers are a true team, practicing three times a week on their energetic and complicated routine. The 11-member team includes only six with any dance background as well as multiple members with athletic backgrounds including soccer, volleyball and basketball.

During competition, the teams are scored by a panel of judges.

“Just like in gymnastics, you get scored,” said Enrico. “And whoever has the highest points wins.”

Because of the level of competition, the team hosts tryouts every year and cuts are made, leaving only the best on the floor.

“People automatically think it's easy to be on the dance team,” Johnson said, adding that a dance background helps, but form and the ability to work on a team are more important. “You have to be in shape to dance.”

“Dance moves are sort of like exercise,” added TaRae Demry.

The choreographers also try to highlight the skills of some of their members. For example, John Sith is a break dancer and the team tries to put him and his skills out in the front throughout the routine.

But while the state championship hasn't quite set in for the entire team, the beat goes on as the search for next year's crew gets underway with tryouts at the end of May. And anyone with moves may find themselves out on the floor.

“We recruit,” Johnson said with a big smile.

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