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Dance: Canby prepares for the state championships

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The Cougars will look to add another state title trophy March 16-18 at Memorial Coliseum

SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Canby dance team's routine, 'One Way', is a stylistic departure from the Cougars' state routines in recent years.

Though an early morning practice was scheduled for a Mid-November morning, Canby dance team captains had something else up their sleeves.

Months after team captains learned about the show division state routine, the Cougars drove to a nearby warehouse. Then, the team captains took off their jackets and revealed the six letters that form the name of this year's winter season routine – "One Way."

Officially, the state season journey had begun.

Flash forward four months and the Cougars' journey will end in the Oregon Dance State Championships March 16-18 at Memorial Coliseum.

One year ago, the Cougars shattered the show division record en route to a state title. This year, emblematic of the routine's theme, the Cougars have traveled in a divergent direction. Instead of utilizing a more soothing and emotive routine, the Cougars routine is ferocious and energetic. They're also using a modern style of dance rather than lyrical-contemporary.

"Our last couple had been more flow-ey and prettier. This year it's more intense. The music is more intense and there's a lot more going on," Canby team captain Victoria Aguilar Mariano said. "Everything is more precise. There's not one moment where we are stopped. Everyone is always moving. There is always something going on on the floor."

In turn, Canby dancers must use fierce facial expressions.

"I do like doing the more intense, creepy stuff because it's something different and fun but I like the prettier more emotional dances because you can relate to that feeling more," Canby captain Haley Fitzgerald said.

In order to evoke such foreign emotions, Fitzgerald thinks about her desire to win the state title.

" I think about channeling everything I possibly can to get to that goal because we all want it so bad," she said.

The routine's staging features two black arrows on each side of the white floor along with a platform and a couple looping structures.

During the state routine reveal, the team captains instructed the other dancers to paint arrows individually to show that people interpret and perceive ideas differently.

"It represents the different directions that people can go in life and the way people can perceive things. How there isn't only one way to look at something," Fitzgerald said of the arrows.

The routine features rapid movement and ample jumps.

Fitzgerald and Aguilar Mariano say maintaining energy from start to finish is the most arduous aspect of the routine.

"It's a really complex and high demand routine and the music keeps building. By the end we're all feeling really tired. It's hard to push through," Fitzgerald said. "If you don't have the best posture and look tired they (the judges) will take note of that."

Canby has posted the highest marks of any show division school while Parkrose could be the Cougars staunchest adversary. The team won competitions at Liberty High School and Parkrose High School this year.

Canby has practiced over 15 hours a week lately in preparation for the final competition. The routine is finalized so the Cougars work rigorously to perfect every last detail.

"At this point we're working on perfecting everything, making sure we feel good about it and making sure once it's over, we don't say 'I wish I would have done this.' We want to make sure we feel good about our last two performances," Aguilar Mariano said.

Fitzgerald added: "I think the biggest area our team can work on is the execution of our moves, control and precision. Also focusing on the endurance part of it and rationing our energy throughout the routine."

Fitzgerald says the team has received high marks for creativity and judges have reflected positively on the overall performance. She credits choreographer James Healey for piecing together a well-thought-out routine.

"Our choreographer is amazing and he has the coolest ideas. He will keep messing around with it until it looks really cool," she said.

In the days leading up to the state performance, the dancers mom's humorously performed an easier version of the routine and the team holds a candlelight ceremony where the dancers put their feelings out in the open. Fitzgerald likes the ritualistic aspect of the season.

"It's fun because it's something to look forward to. Even though practices are really hard there's something that's coming up around the corner that we get to do," she said.

Fitzgerald and Aguilar Mariano are seasoned veterans yet say the state championship stage is nerve-racking no matter how old you are.

"Every year it feels like the first time all over again. No matter how confident you think you are, you are 100 percent nervous. It needs to be your best performance. There's no escaping those butterflies," Fitzgerald said.