Bruin Girls compete at nationals, adopt mindset changes in face of adversity


Photo courtesy of Joseph Anderson.

Anjali Noel Ramesh, Editor-in-Chief

The RBHS Bruin Girls competed against 172 teams from across the country in the 2022 National Dance Alliance (NDA) High School National Championships this past weekend, March 4 through March 6, in Orlando, Florida. The girls participated in three different team events: the Small Varsity Jazz Division, the Medium Varsity Team Performance and the Large Varsity Pom Division. After competing in preliminary rounds Friday, the team advanced to the finals the following days, placing 11th in the Small Varsity Jazz Division and fourth in both the Medium Varsity Team Performance and the Large Varsity Pom Division. 

Head coach Lyria Bartlett said Orlando was the first in-person national championship for over half of the team, because the previous year’s competition was strictly virtual as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. 

“This team fought hard all year to overcome injuries and recover from a season without in-person competitions,” Bartlett said. “They were phenomenal. To compete at the highest level of talent and pressure, and walk away with two performances that are ranked fourth in the country is amazing. We are so very proud.”

Going into the championships, she said the girls recognized the subjectiveness of the playing field since the outcome of a performance depends on the mindset of those judging. Judges score the teams based on various technique-related criteria, and an overall score out of 100 is given at the end of the dance.

“We wanted to do the best we could and to drive our scores up as high as possible,” Bartlett said. “Nothing is ever perfect and we do our best to recover from things that go wrong and lift our teammates up with positive energy and strong performances.”

Bartlett also said although the team received multiple first-place titles at the 2021 NDA National Championships, the judges do not take prior achievements into account, which encouraged the girls to continue to push and better themselves.

Nothing is ever perfect and we do our best to recover from things that go wrong and lift our teammates up with positive energy and strong performances. ”

— Lyria Bartlett, head coach

Senior Charlotte Ries, who was on Bruin Girls all four years of high school, said there was a certain level of pressure coming off of the team’s success in 2021, especially with the shift back to in-person after a virtual season.

“Our coach always tells us that our success puts a target on our back and we need to be respectful and work hard all the time because of that,” Ries said. “[This year] we placed fourth in both [the Large Varsity Pom Division] and [the Medium Varsity Team Performance] against a lot of really good teams and with low point margins between first and fourth for both categories, so I would say we had a very successful season and I’m proud of the work we put into our routines.

Ries also said since participating in-person at nationals was a first for most of the team, there were a significant number of girls who were stressed or scared to perform. She said the intensity of the competition from other well-trained dance teams at both the regional and national level was overwhelming at times.

“Because of this [pressure] we decided to adopt a ‘fear me mindset,’ which basically means that our routines are so strong and powerful and we are so confident that we fear no one and we are feared by other teams,” Ries said. “We said that not to be mean to other teams, as a team we pride ourselves on lifting up and cheering for other teams, but just to show confidence and really feel the attack needed for our routines.”

For junior Whitney Blackburn, this was the first in-person nationals competition of her Bruin Girls career, despite being on the team for three years. Blackburn said the girls’ mantra, “everything to give, nothing to lose” reminded them to perform confidently and without regrets.

“We would scream this before going on stage and right before the music came on,” Blackburn said. “It wasn’t about placement or scores, it was about putting our best foot forward and sharing with everyone our hard work and love for each other and dance.”

As this is her final year on the team, Ries said she treasured stepping into her role as a leader and watching the underclassmen members grow. She set a personal goal for herself to make all the girls feel valued and appreciated, no matter the challenges faced during the season.

“The team and [I] have changed a lot every year and I can say I’m a better person for it. All four years have been absolutely incredible, and I’m really grateful [for] my coaches and teammates for putting in all the blood, sweat and tears because they make it worth it,” Ries said. “This season has taught me most that commitment and dedication to each other is worth way more than any trophy.”

Did you watch the Bruin Girls perform at nationals? Let us know in the comments below.