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South Jordan Journal

Mountain Creek Dance Company nails routine during Utah Jazz pregame show

Jun 05, 2024 03:19PM ● By Julie Slama

Mountain Creek Dance Company took center court before the Utah Jazz-Charlotte Hornets game. (Photo courtesy Mountain Creek Middle School)

Before the Utah Jazz finished their season, there were 21 new middle school fans – of the Utah Jazz dancers, at least.

Mountain Creek Middle School’s dance company received words of encouragement and high fives from the professional dancers before they performed their hip hop routine at center court during the pregame of the Utah Jazz vs. Charlotte Hornets game. 

“It was fun to be in the tunnels with the Jazz dancers,” said ninth grader and second-year dance company member Raegan Ross. “They came and said hi; the dancers asked us where we were from and how long we’ve danced. We took a couple pictures with them. It was cool to see their performances. One minute, we were meeting them and then they’re on the court dancing. It was awesome.”

When it came time for the dance company to take the floor, they walked by some of the Jazz players warming up. Their coach, Raegan Nelson, is a fan.

“The dance company was making fun of me because I was geeking out,” she said. “I love the Jazz and every time I’ve been at their games, I’m up in the way-high seats. So, to walk right past them — I mean, they were right there — and they’re so tall.”

Even with the moment to take in the players, the coach kept her focus and had concerns about her dancers. Would the floor be slippery for them to perform their tricks? What about spacing? Their dance room was smaller and even though they had a few practices on the school basketball court, it wasn’t the same. Would their introduction music and performance music be played right? And only 21 of the 27 team members could make it to the Jazz game.

“We prepped for it for several weeks. We were never able to practice on the Jazz floor so we knew they would have to go for it in the moment, but they’re good at that,” Nelson said. “They have experience and are good with their tricks.”

 And they were. They did kip-ups – popping up from being on their backs; sumos – aerials where they grabbed their legs; the Webster – a variation of a front handspring; head springs and more. Some of their formations were in sync and some were intended to contrast with one another.

“It was crazy because I’ve never been on a court that big, but it was great since we could spread out. We usually perform on a stage, but here, they could see every angle and all our formations from above,” Ross said. “We were dancing, and the camera man was so close and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re going to hit him,’ but we never did. I’ve never had someone right there filming us, getting close up shots. But it was cool, you could see the detail of us on the Jumbotron.”

Her ninth-grade teammate, Natalynn Slade, is a first-year dance company member.

“I go to the Jazz games a lot, but this was the first time I got to go in the tunnel and see how the players and dancers get out to the floor,” she said. “Then we got to do it. It was cool.”

Nelson learned about a dance friend’s team performing at the Jazz game, so she reached out to make it happen for her dance company. 

“When I talked with the girls’ parents, they were supportive. I let our school community know and we ended up buying over 100 tickets. They let everyone come close to the court to see our team perform before going to their seats,” she said.

Many members of the dance company, like Slade and Ross, have years of dance experience.

“I’ve been dancing my whole life,” Slade said. “My mom put me into it; she thought it would be fun for me to be in ballet. Now, I do modern, pointe ballet, jazz, hip hop and contemporary and I do tumbling. When I saw dance offered in middle school, I thought it sounded fun. In seventh grade, I took dance 2, then advanced dance and now, dance company. I’m getting to do more dancing, which makes me happier.”

She said at her studio, they focus on one dance at a time.

“In dance company, we learned tons of dances in a certain amount of time so it’s a new experience picking up on those. I wouldn’t be able to perform at the Jazz game if I wasn’t on dance company. Plus, I like being with the team; it’s fun,” Slade said.

Ross didn’t start in dance; her journey followed her mom’s footsteps in softball.

“I hated it,” she said. “I got hit in the ear one time and I was done. My mom said that I could try something new – and we picked dance. I liked it and I was good at it — and my mom said, ‘Well, it looks like we’re not going back to softball.’ I do ballet, hip hop, contemporary, jazz, lyrical — and tumbling. I’m going to try out for drill at Herriman High next year.”

Ross said in dance company, she has learned from many opportunities.

“We’ve performed, not just at the Jazz game, but with RDT (Repertory Dance Theatre), where we got to take classes and learn from other people,” she said.

Nelson said the collaboration with RDT is called “The Heritage Project.”

“They send a dancer to us to create a piece with all our dancers. Then, they invite us to one of their performances and when we go, we get to perform that piece they taught us at the Rose Wagner Center in Salt Lake City. We also went to their Day of Dance (partnered with the Utah Dance Education Organization), where they did workshops and different classes with us,” she said.

The group performs about 10 times per year including at assemblies, a basketball game, a talent show, Halloween concert, local elementary schools’ performances and the year-end dance recital, which includes some pieces that the students choreographed.

“We split into groups, and they come up with the dances,” Nelson said. “Sometimes that’s tricky, but they figure it out; it’s a good experience for them to work together.”

“Performing is fun,” Ross said. “We showcase everything we’ve worked on all year at our dance concert. At most performances, we usually do our hip hop routine because we’re strong at it and it’s fun to watch. It’s fun to dance with this group; we’re all friends and we’re all learning together. We’re also becoming responsible. When you’re the choreographer, you’re making the dance for everyone, so the team is looking to you to know what to do and if you’re the dancer, and you miss that day, it’s your responsibility to learn the dance for the next time.”

Slade said that through working together, they’ve learned how to communicate better and that shows when they dance.

“We’ve developed a bond. When you’re dancing with someone, you’re vulnerable because you’re showing emotion and bringing up ideas that might be different; it’s a community where they accept and support you and you trust them,” she said.

Dance company has been a positive experience in Ross’ dance career.

“I’m glad I switched from softball to dance because it’s been such a big part of my life. Like with dance company, I put so much commitment into it, it’s special to me,” she said. “I’ve met so many girls and so many teachers, and I’ve had so many opportunities. I’m excited for what’s ahead of me.” λ