Lancer Dancer spring show tonight will feature hip-hop routine that caused controversy at national competition

The Lancer Dancers performing their jazz routine at NDA Nationals last month.
The Lancer Dancers performing their jazz routine at NDA Nationals last month.

Northeast Johnson County residents tonight will have a chance to see for themselves the innovative dance routine that caused something of a stir at the National Dance Alliance’s high school championships last month.

The Lancer Dancers’ Spring Show comes to the Shawnee Mission East auditorium at 7 p.m. tonight, and will feature the hip-hop routine that the team performed at the competition in Orlando.

Coach Alexis “Bubba” Close said the team had decided to try something different early in the season this year after learning that the dance competitions would be adhering strictly to music copyright rules that would prevent the team from editing together different pieces of music and playing with their speeds. Instead, the group came up with the idea of developing a routine that would be set to the sounds of the SM East drumline performing live.

“It was quite an involved process,” Close said.

Indeed, unlike other dance teams, which have their routines choreographed to recorded soundtracks, the SM East team worked hand in hand with a select group of drummers to develop a routine in which both the music and the dance were performed live.

In the preliminary round at the NDA championships, the Lancers walked away with a commanding lead over the field. The judges’ critiques after the preliminary round were widely positive, and indicated no specific issues with the movements of the drumline.

Still, Close told her team it was “no time to be complacent.” They hit the stage in the finals focused and ready to go. And by Close’s account, her team nailed it.

“It was even better than the day before,” she said.

But when the judges’ results came back, the scores were fully three-tenths of a point lower than in prelims, enough to knock them down from first to third place overall. Close was gobsmacked. When she went to check the judges’ notes after the finals performance, she was surprised to find several pointed comments about the drumline choreography.

“It was basically a 180 from the day before,” she said. After asking around, she learned that the judges had a meeting the previous night. She suspects they changed their mind about how they were judging the drumline portion of the performance.

“I think it’s very fishy,” she said. “We didn’t get any notes about the drumline after prelims, so we had no opportunity to make any changes. We would have been happy — and had time — to rework some of what the drumline was doing if we’d known.”

The team was completely caught off guard by the results. Based on their execution of the routine, they had high hopes of taking the hip-hop title, which would have been a first in school history. Instead, they had to settle for third — still the Lancers best showing in the category.

“It was probably one of the hardest coaching moments of my life,” Close said.

Here’s a video of the team watching its performance: