JOHN DAY - Fourteen Grant Union High School athletes hope for a golden season.

Grant Union Gold, the school's dance team, begins its competitive season next Saturday, Jan. 28, at Sheldon High School in Eugene.

"That will be the first time we get to perform the first part of the routine for anyone," said coach Shannon Adair.

"At Sheldon, our goal is to perform the first 3 minutes of our routine, or more, and to score at least 60 or higher," she said. "If we are able to do that, we automatically qualify to perform both evenings at the state competition."

The team will also compete in three other competitions, all in preparation for the Oregon State Activities Association Dance & Drill Championships, set for March 14-17 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

Leading up to state, Grant Union Gold will compete Saturday, Feb. 11, at Molalla; Saturday, Feb. 25, in Pendleton; and Saturday, March 3, at Sprague High School in Salem. The girls will perform for a home audience on Tuesday, March 13, in the annual State Kickoff Performance and Spring Program.

They are also busy showing off their skills at Grant Union High School basketball halftime shows. They performed two new routines at girls and boys varsity basketball halftimes on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 13-14.

At this Friday's game between the Prospectors and the Burns Hilanders, Grant Union Gold and the Burns Hilanderettes dance team will dance together, performing several routines they learned at a summer 2011 dance camp.

This year's team captain is senior Ashleigh Sampley. Members are juniors Kyra Adair, Lacey Elliott, Lindsey Weymouth and Megan Cameron; sophomores Cherise Holmstrom, Samantha Snyder, Lindsey Webb, Hannah Andrews and Taylor Douglass; and freshmen Carli Gardner, Auna Waldner, Jennifer McCloskey and Makaela Speakman.

"We have a wide range of experience levels, and only two are completely new to the sport," said Adair.

Many of the dancers started out and continue as dance students of Adair, who is owner of Body, Fitness and Dance.

"Sampley, Holmstrom and Gardner have danced with me since 2002," she said. "Webb and Snyder started out in gymnastics in 2002 and then switched to dance (Snyder in 2007 and Webb in 2008). Waldner started dancing with me in 2003. McCloskey started in 2005, Adair in 2006, and Elliott in 2007."

Lindsey Weymouth and Hannah Andrews joined Grant Union Gold last year. Speakman, Douglass and Cameron are new, although Cameron had dance classes in Prineville before moving here, said Adair.

“This is an exceptional group, and they are working incredibly hard,” she said.

Grant Union Gold is learning and polishing the competition routine, set to the music of “Divenire” by Ludovico Einaudi.

The modern though classical-sounding piece is very popular in Europe. In Italian, divenire means becoming and evolving, and that is what’s happening with the work on the selection, Adair said.

“Our goal is to dance as individuals and become one as a team by the end.  We are very excited about this routine and the students have definitely been challenged this year,” she said. “Because we have so many experienced dancers this year, we are really pushing them to bring their technical skills up. The music inspires a more technical dance as well. It is very complex, so we have to match that in our performance.”

For the Sheldon competition, the girls are working to master 3:10 of the 4:45 minute routine. As of last week, the girls had learned up to around 2:30. “We are close. We still have a lot of cleaning to do before performance time,” said Adair, “but I am confident the team will work hard and that we have what we need for the first performance.”

The group is further along in this work this year, for two reasons, she said.

First, assistant coach Laci Powell, who is captain of the Eastern Oregon University dance team, has been able to share material for the girls to use for the halftime performances, said Adair.

“This has reduced the time spent on choreography for the half time routines. We also work very well together when choreographing, so we have been able to work faster to get our competition routine going,” she said.

“Secondly, in addition to the experience level, this team has a great work ethic,” said Adair. “Overall, they are able to take on more because most of them have the basic skills down and they are able to learn faster. They are really doing a great job.”

Jessica Moore, who has been assistant coach in the past, also helps when she can. Moore recently started a business that demands most of her attention, Adair said.

Powell and Adair work on choregraphy together, and split the other, numerous jobs of coaching, which include paperwork for competitions, motel reservations, travel organization, costuming and more.

Grant Union Gold will be joined by the five-member Junior Gold dance team at Molalla and Pendleton competitions and at the March 13 Spring Showcase. Assisted by Cherise Holmstrom, Adair also coaches the younger group.

“Cherise has been a great help with choreography and day-to-day practices,” she said.

The younger dancers’ work is to the theme “Twisted Fairy Tale,” with music from the “Alice in Wonderland” soundtrack.

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