Lionettes aim to improve as season goes on

Dancing is an athletic endeavor and in some ways, it can easily be considered a sport.

So says the Lansing Lionettes’ spirit squad, a group of a dozen dedicated individuals who put their time and bodies on the line while going through the rigors of learning and perfecting highly physical dance routines.

On the first weekend of this month, the Lionettes rated a Division I score in a competition in Eudora involving about a dozen teams. It was the team’s first competition and their score was garnered based on their performance and not in comparison to others, according to first-year coach Lori Pope.

“They base it on your scores and if you score at an average of 90 or above then you score Division I,” Pope said. “They don’t rank the teams, they rank you based on your scores. They score based on choreography, technique, showmanship and overall presence and costuming.”

Pope has come to appreciate the dedication and the execution these girls illustrate each day they hit the floor.

“They are a great group, they work hard, they are here twice a week, they attend a summer camp which is a pretty rigorous four days where they dance all day long, so it requires a lot of hard work and dedication to the team,” Pope said. “They also do a lot of activities throughout the year.

“My definition of a sport is something you have to work hard at to do well at. It is very difficult, with them doing the stretching, the conditioning all of the things you would do to be considered a sport. I consider all of these girls athletes.”

So far the team has done well due to their bond as a unit.

“Their strength is their teamwork,” Pope said. “They work well as a team and are a cohesive group and they get along. It’s also their personal dedication and willingness to do things even when they are hard.”

Senior Marissa Schimke believes that what the dancers do is comparable (and then some) to other athletic activities.

“I give a lot of time and dedication and basically dedicated my whole high school career around dance,” Schimke said. “We practice twice a week for two hours. It’s about being fit and it’s hard to memorize a routine. It is pretty difficult compared to some other sports because you have to keep up your stamina and be good with your balance, arm motions (and other physical movements).”

Then of course there is the pressure of making sure the choreography is just right. Unlike many sports where mistakes can be missed by the fans, the simplest bobble in a routine can expose that one dancer as the culprit.

“It’s all a challenge,” Schimke said. “We just smile, use our facials and act like nothing ever happened.”

The team will next participate in the Kansas City Classic in Independence, Missouri, on Dec. 9 and will execute three routines – kick, jazz, lyrical jazz – as a team and perform a number of solos and duets.

Former Kansas City Chiefs’ cheerleader Brooke McPheeters will teach the girls their lyrical jazz routine.

“I want us to get better with technique and growing as a team on different skills that we have,” Schimke said. “Stuff like advanced moves. We did get Division I (in Eudora), but we could get better.”

The Lionettes consist of Schimke, Piper Stevens, Hannah Kirby, Danielle Edwards, Alyssa Keller, CaMille Gates, Riya Patel, Tristin Edwards, Martayah Mitchell, Chloe Mears, Sarah Vasquez and Nyah Cavender-Whitfield.