Allison Robbert

Mason Evans, dance sophomore and choreographer for the sophomore pep rally dance, executes a new move while rehearsing with his dancers.

When the lunch bell rings, dance junior Emma McCue isn’t walking down to the cafeteria. In fact, she’s almost never there; instead, she’s rushing to the gym to get students ready to leap and prance for one of the biggest events during spirit week.  

For choreographers like McCue, organizing the pep rally dance is “the most stressful thing” of the year. Bi-weekly lunch rehearsals began as early as November, but the preparation didn’t stop when the bell rang. 

“I’ve had pep rally take priority over … my schoolwork,” McCue said. “Every night I’m editing, taping the music, or I come up with the choreography … It’s hard.”

McCue starts this process as soon as possible, meeting up with fellow choreographers to discuss the songs and theme at the beginning of the school year. Then, they move to the gym, where they start rehearsing and spacing out the performance with the other dancers. 

In many instances, choreographers must do more than choose dance moves; they have to take into account who they’re dancing for and how to get the best reactions. To create both contrast and variety for the viewers as dances progress, it’s usual to see dancers cluster, back out, and then scurry to a new position.  

“In rehearsals, you have [to] set the formations and layers to make [the dance] look more aesthetically pleasing to the audience,” said Jackie Albanese, dance sophomore and choreographer for the Class of 2022 Generation Dance. “If the tempo changes [in the music], then that means the dynamic changes, [like] if you’re doing something soft, and then all of a sudden you start hitting things harder.” 

Learning the choreography and getting pep-rally-ready can be challenging, according to visual junior Jada Crawford, who is participating in the junior pep rally dance—especially for non-dance majors, Crawford said, as most of the practicing takes place “behind the scenes.”

“The learning process itself […] is definitely more difficult for me,” Crawford said. “I’m not going to get the moves the first time, but … once you learn the beat and the lyrics of the song, it gets easier to do the move.” 

Sasha Sagel, dance senior and choreographer for the senior pep rally dance, said that everyone ends up “pull[ing] through” during the rehearsals just prior to pep rally day.  

“Usually, through rehearsals, it’s kind of a mess because everyone’s in their own headspace and there’s a lot to do,” Sagel said, “but when it’s the week of spirit week, we basically all go ham.” 

Students have to come to value spirit week as the years have passed, apparent by the almost 2,000 Instagram posts tagged #dsoaspiritweek, more than 4.3 million views that all of the dances have garnered on YouTube, and the millions more views on Facebook. In short, the dances, along with spirit week in general, have received a lot more attention.  

“I don’t really care about YouTube or the views,” McCue said. “It’s just … about getting to perform it and seeing everyone else’s dances and all the grades sharing that energy. It makes all the stress from the months before worth it.”

As excitement for spirit week builds, choreographers take a step back to be proud of what they have accomplished. 

“Honestly, once I get over the making-myself-crazy-thinking-about-everything-that-can-go-wrong [part], I’m just super excited about that day,” McCue said. “And it’s not just for us; it’s for the entire school.”

More Spirit Week, More Muse – Stay tuned for The Muse’s live Spirit Week 2020 updates on the website, social media, and in an upcoming print edition.