WDAAM Competes Through the Virtual Year

West+High%E2%80%99s+Drill+and+All+Male+dance+team+came+together+to+record+their+pandemic-style+performance+on+the+football+field+to+enter+into+their+first+competition+following+an+unprecedented+year+of+COVID-induced+stress+and+technical+difficulties.

Art/Photo by Samantha Takeda

West High’s Drill and All Male dance team came together to record their pandemic-style performance on the football field to enter into their first competition following an unprecedented year of COVID-induced stress and technical difficulties.

Alexssa Takeda, Staff Writer

   Imagine arriving at school at seven in the morning for five days a week, dancing for hours in preparation for weekend competitions. Imagine the roaring crowd as adrenaline shoots through each dancer’s powerful movements. Imagine the silence as hands clutch one another with heads bowed, waiting to find out which team came out on top. It has been a year since West High’s Drill & All Male (WDAAM) team has been able to experience this. But on Sunday, March 7th, these students returned to their new stage. 

   Well, it wasn’t the stage they were familiar with. Instead of the Pavilion or the gym, the team had to get used to the football field’s turf. But even prior to using the field, the team was restricted to their homes and bedrooms. Similar to most sports at the beginning of this school year, virtual practices came with their difficulties. 

   WDAAM Head Captain Rena Wu (12), has been a part of the team since her freshman year. Although she wasn’t versed in hip-hop-style dance before trying out for West’s Drill team, she cherished this learning experience. But this year has been even more challenging, to say the least. Not only was the infamous senioritis kicking in, but she was also struggling with seeing dance as a passion instead of purely competition. Wu has been competing even before joining the WDAAM team, so she explained it was easy for her to think that the purpose of dancing is to win. But she pointed out that she had to direct her energy to remind herself that “I like to dance [because] I feel like it makes me happier.”

   Classes over Zoom were also a double-edged sword. On one hand, with no one watching, members might feel free to experiment more with their movements and put the focus on themselves. First-year WDAAM member Reiko Tanaka (10) reiterated this, explained how she improved her dancing abilities by centering her attention on her own skills and taking her time instead of rushing to catch up with others. But on the other hand, some may think that with no eyes on them, they can let things slide and put in less effort. 

   Thankfully for the team, they were able to slowly transition from cramped Zoom sessions to the spacious football field on campus. They immediately went into preparing for their performance. As always, students wore masks and stood six feet apart at all times to ensure safety among the team. Although there were minor difficulties such as figuring out their routine formations and getting used to turning on the turf, they quickly adapted to these changes. Wu suggests that their smooth transition was made partly because “we were able to take different skills that we cover within Drill and all the different types of performances and apply it.” From different schools to lively parades, this team has danced through it all. A little bit of grass wouldn’t stand in their way. 

   Although the WDAAM team tackled every obstacle that stood in their path, one thing that was difficult for some members was the lack of bonding. During competitions, members are too busy trying to learn routines and perfecting their performance to take time to bond. West All Male Captain Edris Noche (12) explained that within the WDAAM team, there were ‘families’: “I’m like… a head family-person, and we would play games together. But now we can’t really do any of that because [we are] six feet [apart] and a lot of us are busy.” This disconnection is made even more prominent with new WDAAM dancers. Wu admits that she hadn’t met the incoming drill members until recently, since practices took place over Zoom. She also fondly recalled a tradition they had: “As the bus turns the corner onto Victor…we would start singing the Alma Mater.” A sea of voices would surround them, signifying their unity and bringing the long night to a close. With the memory as an echo in her mind, Wu says, “I feel like we all kind of took it for granted.” 

   Instead of a live performance, WDAAM’s first competition of the year was pre-recorded. Although this gave performers multiple chances to do their best before they presented their final product, there wasn’t that rush of energy, knowing that they had one shot to give the audience their best.

    Nevertheless, the hard work paid off in the end. Despite the distance, the team came together in a Zoom call to virtually livestream their pieces. Even though they weren’t able to cheer, they were able to share their excitement and hype each other up through the Zoom chat. After hours of back-to-back routines, the WDAAM dancers waited in anticipation as the announcer revealed which routines stood out the most. Not only had the team won first place in six different categories, but their small All Male group won a special award for Best Showmanship.

   This accomplishment filled Tanaka and many others with pride to be representing West High, and encouraged them to keep working to improve: “[It was] fun to see new people and see everyone’s talents. It made me feel like I want to be even better at dancing.”