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K-HighLites eye top prize at SE Region tourney: Dance team seeks third consecutive ‘superior rating’
The K-HighLites march into the court for a halftime performance during the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic championship game Dec. 29, 2019 at Ketchikan High School. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

Daily News Staff Writer

With the excitement of the annual Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic basketball tournament behind them, Ketchikan High School’s K-HighLites dance team is focusing on the season ahead and preparations for this spring’s upcoming Southeast Region 5A/4A tournament.

The team is coached by Alma Parker and Christian Lorenzo, both former K-HighLites dancers.

As the owner of StudioMax, Parker has 13 years of experience in teaching dance. She also works at the Ketchikan Pioneer Home. Lorenzo teaches kindergarten at Fawn Mountain Elementary School.

During the CCCC, the K-HighLites put on five different performances.

Parker said the team got good attention from those routines.

The team’s performances are planned and choreographed around the capabilities of the dancers, Parker explained. Lorenzo said that last year, the team did mostly hip-hop numbers – which are always a “crowd-pleaser” for high school audiences.

“I think as a coach you look at a perspective of what your current skill set is,” Parker said about developing choreography. “And then you work around those routines to enhance the skill sets and make them audience-worthy.”

The team’s focus in on jazz, hip-hop and “pom” routines.  Pom routines use using pom-pom puffs as part of the dance, which Parker notes is distinct from cheerleading because there are no chants. This year, the team is also working on routines that feature “sharp movements,” according to Parker and Lorenzo.

“There’s a lot of athleticism involved in our routines,” Parker said. “We do a lot of what we call tricks that do incorporate gymnastics abilities with balance. … It’s just a different world of dance team versus what your traditional ballet studio would be.”

Parker remembers that when she was a member of K-HighLites, the team was more focused on line drills and marching.

“Now, you’re incorporating marching and line and arm motions with all this other athleticism that these young girls and young men are really pushing forward in making our team really noticeable,” Parker said.

The choreography changes each year, and so does the size of the team.

The team only has 13 members this year, with most of the dancers being juniors. Parker said that the team can grow up to as many as 20 members. Lorenzo remembers that during his time on the team in 2014, the team had 22 total dancers.

Even with the small number of team members, not every dancer is incorporated into every routine.

“It doesn’t look like that, because we take up a lot of the floor and we use a lot of the space,” Parker said.

Lorenzo and Parker described the team as “small but mighty.”

“I think the difference between this team (and past teams) is we’re small, but they work so hard and they focus more as one unit,” Lorenzo explained. “So for them, I think it’s they’re really pushing themselves this year (and) because they are a small team, they do have big shoes to fill.”

Lorenzo and Parker said the dancers are committed.

Leah Call, a senior, has been on the K-HighLites team since her freshman year of school. She is now the team captain.

“My favorite part, obviously, is the dancing,” Call said about the team. “It’s just something I love to do, and being able to do it with my team and going out and performing stuff that we’ve worked on all season is just really rewarding.”

Call most enjoys doing the “pom” routines because she feels it showcases the team’s abilities well.

Kayhi junior Jhasen Seludo is a first-year team member. He said he joined the team at the advice of his friends, and also because his sister is a dancer.

“It’s very fun and pleasant,” Seludo said of the team.

Seludo’s favorite dance routines are hip-hop numbers.

Katelyn Trugon is a first-year member and one of two freshmen on the K-HighLites team.

“My favorite thing (about the team) is while I’m dancing, you can look at the crowd and see them smiling,” Trugon said.

Like Seludo, Trugon feels that she is strongest as a hip-hop dancer.

Trugon said that being on the team helps her release stress about school and her personal life.

“I’ve been dancing for so long that it definitely makes me happy,” Trugon said about being on the team.

Call, Seludo and Trugon all said that they feel weakest when performing jazz routines.

The team will continue to work hard as it approaches the Southeast Region tournament in March.

The tournament will be held in Juneau, and will include competing basketball teams, pep clubs, cheerleading teams and dance teams.

The K-HighLites will be required to perform a five or six minute routine – often centered around a theme – for a panel of judges. After the performance, the team is given a score.

Parker said that there are no first, second or third places in this tournament.

The highest possible score is a 90-100, which is called a “superior rating.” A score of 80-89 is an “excellent rating” and 79-70 is a “good rating.”

The K-HighLites are after their third consecutive “superior rating” under coaches Parker and Lorenzo. The team has scored high marks for the last 10 years, Parker estimated.

 “What’s strong right now is that I think we have faced whatever challenges we had throughout the summer and through the beginning of fall, and I think that everyone is there to commit to finishing strong, to work their hardest, to make every routine presentable and performance-worthy,” Parker said.