Dance team raises over $16,000 in two days for national competition


Emmaus’ dance team has competes at the NDA national competition almost every year. Photo courtesy of Gracelyn Fisher.

Rylee Dang, Former Features Editor

Seniors Katie Jansen and Gracelyn Fisher have competed with Emmaus High School’s dance team since freshman year, and when their trip to nationals was approved following the revised health and safety plan, the team found a way to raise over $16,000 in 48 hours in order to compete in Orlando. 

Each year Emmaus’ dance team works throughout the season to earn a bid to compete at the National Dance Alliance’s (NDA) high school competition held in Florida. Starting in the beginning of the year, the team will fly in choreographers from Florida and Los Angeles, and practice three different routines specifically for the national competition: One hip-hop, one pom, and one game-day dance. 

In a normal year, the team would start at a dance camp to earn approval to move to regionals in New Jersey, and there they would compete for a bid for nationals. The pandemic threw a wrench in their plans this year, however. As the district’s health and safety plan initially called for the cancellation of out-of-state field trips, the team’s competition in Florida was put on hold and relegated their season to in-school performances. 

Jansen saw early on that it was unlikely that the team would be able to go to nationals, however their coach, Jill Jarsocrak, tried to advocate for the team and find a way for them to go.

“I know there was other clubs or teams that were trying to go to Florida… and at the time, there was only 13 states that you were allowed to go to,” Jansen said. “Our coach was sending emails and meeting with people and just trying to see what she could do, and they were just like ‘No, those are the regulations, you guys can’t go and that’s that’… Even as a team we sent an email to the superintendent and just wanted to say our part and why it’s important to us.”

With the updated health and safety plan announced and confirmed at Monday’s board meeting, the district loosened restrictions and allowed the team to travel to compete in the NDA nationals. While the team was at practice, their coach revealed the news that if the district voted to use a mask-optional policy, they would be able to travel to Florida. 

“We were sitting at practice and she [Jarsocrak] was like ‘Alright guys let’s come in a circle, let’s gather around,’” Fisher said. “Then she was like ‘So my boss called me,’ and we were thinking ‘Oh no.’ Our coach pushed for us to go, she was doing everything she could, so we were like, ‘This can’t be good.’”

Jansen claimed that the news was met with tears and celebration, even if it was only a possibility that the team could go and nothing was planned yet.

“We all just started screaming because just going to nationals is something that’s been such a prominent part of high school for us, and it’s just such an emotional [time], no matter what,” Jansen said. “You can’t explain that feeling of just going and being with your team and competing on a national stage. So just finding out that we could go and make it work possibly our senior year was something huge, and never in a million years did any of us expect to be approved the week before.”

This decision did not come without its own problems for the team. While they were allowed to go, none of the members had saved up or scheduled any flights to make it to the competition. The team also technically did not even have a bid, since they never submitted a video to qualify due to the belief that they would not be approved to go earlier in the year. 

Fisher believes that Emmaus’ history of success at the NDA competition was one of the only reasons that they were able to make it to the competition in the end. 

“There were just so many factors that go into going that we had — I mean 48 hours [as of] today — to figure everything out like flights and rooms,” Fisher said. “Our coach emailed the competition, and that’s how we got in. That’s really, I think, the only reason we were able to go. [It’s] because they knew our team. So they let us go and they were like ‘Sure, we’ll put you in,’ and we were just all so ecstatic.” 

Without the challenges of the pandemic, the team would typically raise money throughout the year to save up for nationals through car washes and other fundraisers, but the short notice caught them off guard, and with a price around $800 per dancer for flights, hotels, and competition fees, the team needed financial support. So, they turned to their community to ask for help, and around nine p.m. on Tuesday night the team hit their goal of raising $15,000 through a GoFundMe campaign. Since then, the team has continued to collect donations, and has received at least $16,500 toward their trip. 

Fisher was overwhelmed by the immense support that the team was greeted with in their time of need, as friends, family, and near strangers, donated to their cause. 

“Everyone just came together: Family, teachers, parents, friends, and other dance teams like Temple’s,” Fisher said. “It’s just crazy [to see] the amount of love and effort.”

Jansen also believes that East Penn teachers were a great help in their cause, and demonstrated the giving spirit of the community. 

“Reaching out to different East Penn teachers and seeing the personal money that they gave us was truly heart-touching just to see that people care and are willing to give anything to help us,” she said. “The East Penn faculty was really supportive in that way; current teachers and past teachers who none of us have seen in 10 years [alike]. It’s really amazing to see how they’ll help our community.” 

While the team found a way to make it to nationals this year, the competition in Florida was not the only goal of the team, according to Jansen. The dedication to dance, still performing at basketball games and practicing on their own, was vital to the team.

“I think at the end of the day, even if we didn’t get to go to nationals, just spending those times, those practices with each other and just dancing in general — because it’s all of our passions even if no one ever gets to see it, we’re dancing for ourselves and we’re dancing for our teammates and our coach — and just putting in the work and getting to do that is still just something very special,” Jansen said. “So getting to go to nationals is just a huge bonus on top.” 

Despite trying to not get their hopes up, Fisher is grateful that the team found a way to compete at nationals regardless of its challenges. 

“Our coach, she just wanted us to keep pushing because what are the odds?” Fisher said. “Miracles happen, and so for us, they did.”