Article written by dance company member, Meg Chaney
First Time, First Place!
Believe it or not, 2019 is the FIRST TIME Sister Kate has competed at Camp Hollywood in the Solo Team division! And we won!
That’s the short version of the story.
The Road to Camp Hollywood (cue Bing, Bob, and Dorothy), featuring Sister Kate, is naturally a longer and more involved story. It all started with Taylor Stender and Meg Taylor, two long-time Sister Kate members, deciding it was time to take the team to Camp Hollywood. They became the co-captains of the eight person squad and kept everyone organized and motivated. A few Katemates have shared some of their thoughts about this crazy and rewarding journey.
The Routine – Every Tub
The routine, performed to the song Every Tub by Count Basie, was first choreographed by Artistic Director, Robin Nunnally, and fellow founding member, Casey Koroshec, back in 2006 in Robin’s living room. The choreography has been performed a few times over the years, most notably debuting at Camp Jitterbug’s Jump Session Show and another time for the legendary Jean Veloz.
What was the most challenging part of the routine for you?
Katemate and Co-captain Taylor: Choreography wise? Remembering that the air step is after the SECOND set of low downs (not the first). We would get to the first set and I’d be already stressing about connecting up with Heather and then not dropping her. Also breathing, finding the moments to catch your breath in this routine while keeping up performance face.
Katemate and Co-captain Meg T: Because I’m tall, low levels are always the hardest for me. I spent a lot of my solo work time practicing flat back and bending down from my hips and knees to get nice and low. When I was first learning Every Tub in 2017, the section I had the hardest time with was the chase section, which we didn’t do this time. It goes in place of airsteps.
Katemate Heather: Every Tub is such a fast, dense routine. When we first started running it, we were all absolutely RUINED after each run-through. It often felt like a push to keep up with the music. Something I kept reminding myself, from previous experiences with fast routines, is that your body does catch up . At some point, it stops feeling so outrageously fast and your breath starts coming easier. And sure enough, by the time we were competition ready, the steps felt much slower and I no longer felt like I was going to die by the end of the routine!
Katemate Meg C: The whole routine was really a daunting and exciting challenge for me. I recently returned to dancing from several months of maternity leave and was really out of shape. The Every Tub choreography is fast, intricate, and athletic! I put a lot of pressure on my self to get back into dancing condition and to not let the other girls down!
What was the most fun part of the process?
Meg T: In a weird masochistic way, the whole thing is fun for me. I love the intensity, sweat and camaraderie that comes from a small group working really hard towards a common goal. And of course the fact that all that work paid off with a 1st place trophy was pretty great.
Taylor: Working with everyone and watching the growth! Seeing these ladies get visibly better week by week was so incredibly gratifying. I’m super proud of the time and energy everyone put in.
What was the most nerve-wracking part of the process?
Taylor: Making sure all the costume pieces were there. I wore my team shoes on the plane so I wouldn’t forget them, and packed all our costumes into my carry-on so that no one would dance naked if the airline lost my checked luggage. Then, during the looonnnnggg wait to put on the costumes, I felt like I really had to manage my energy level and hardly socialized or danced prior to the comp at 12:30 am.
Meg T: The very beginning when Taylor and I were putting everything together and finalizing the cast. And then the last week leading up to the competition when we were getting really into the details of everything. Having Taylor as my co-captain really helped because I knew that there was someone else competent and passionate about making us the best we could be that I could discuss things with and bounce ideas off of. Teamwork makes the dream work.
What was it like doing the floor trials and seeing the other competition team routines for the first time?
Meg T: I try not to watch other routines before I go on for a comp, so I was purposely not watching other teams at trials or in the prep room right before showtime. I get nervous enough without having other people’s routines in my head. That’s part of why I was messing around to WIGLIGH with Theresa, to distract myself and keep from watching other routines.
Taylor: Floor trials felt just like another practice. Someone was leaving the room as we were entering, you wait patiently until your time starts then politely unplug their sound so you can get your time in. Right before the comp started when we were waiting to enter the ballroom I remember seeing the Atomic Cherry Bombs drilling a line sequence, and it did make me think “Am I being a lazy captain? Should we be drilling something right now?”
What was it like to compete against other incredibly skilled teams?
Heather: This is my second time at Camp Hollywood, but first time competing (last year, my husband competed instead). Competing typically makes me a nervous wreck, but competing with my teammates felt more like just another performance and I LOVE to perform! I also loved that we got to compete the first evening and then spend the rest of the time relaxing, looking cute, and enjoying pool-time and parties!
I loved watching all the fantastic routines, in our division as well as the partner team division! Team routines offer such a great opportunity for fun and creativity – it was fabulous to see what everyone brought to the table! Each team had such different strengths. We felt good and proud of the work we had done, but we also felt like it was anyone’s game as far as how teams would score!
Meg C: Oh man, it was crazy! I generally get really nervous when I’m dancing in front of a large group of people, but when we got to Camp Hollywood, I was just EXCITED! I couldn’t believe I was at Camp Hollywood there competing against some of the teams I’ve watched KILL IT at Camp Hollywood for years. And as part of Sister Kate! The main reason I wasn’t more nervous was that I knew we had already done the hard work…the only thing left to do was dance!
Anything you would have done differently?
Meg T: In retrospect, I’d love to have started the focused rehearsals 2-4 weeks earlier to help get us to a place where we could really start talking about details sooner. I might also fly on Thursday night instead of Friday so I can sleep in and relax before the comp instead of dealing with travel madness.
Taylor: Never attempt a Frankie Throw when you know you have no upper body strength? The over the back flip should have been the plan from the start for my air step with Heather. I got ambitious.
As a routine lead I would have set slightly different expectations at practice. I think we did a great job of staying somewhat on track, but it’s so easy to focus on one small part of the choreography and not get to the next thing before you run out of rehearsal time. So maybe just time management would be tighter. Establishing a point where the folks who weren’t leading practice could put in their input without us trying to talk over each other.
One thing I would NOT have changed is the group I got to work with. They all busted their butts (literally, Every Tub is like chorus girl marathon training) and brought something unique to the table.
How do you feel now that the Camp Hollywood competition is over and SKDC got 1st place?
Meg C: A little shocked. Thrilled, naturally. And incredibly grateful to have worked with, and been coached by, such awesome women. I hope we get to do it again next year!
Taylor: SO PROUD!!!! I’m lucky to be surrounded by awesome ladies. WE GOTTA GO DEFEND OUR TITLE NEXT YEAR!
And SO SURPRISED!!!! It’s easy to be too close to the material and only see the mistakes. I had to fly home before the awards ceremony. My partner and I sat at a Tiki Bar in our neighborhood and watched the live stream. When the Camp Hollywood emcee announced Sister Kate as 1st we hollered and threw our hands up, giving each other and our bartender high fives. Getting serious side eye from the other patrons.
Nothing is official, but perhaps Sister Kate will be at Camp Hollywood for 2020!
(Interested in other cool things Sister Kate has done? Check out some of these credits!)