Dancing With The Stars


The girls practicing one of their competition routines. Photo by Grace Li.

The crowd roars as the dance team energetically takes the field and starts dancing to their well-choreographed routines before halftime. It’s hard not to get excited with the hype that the dance team delivers. Watching them work together as a unit shows the great training and time they have put into the sport they love. Dance is truly unique in its execution and events.

Throughout the past decade, Paly dance has been a staple program in Paly’s deep athletic history.The team started when a group of dancers proposed to Coach McDaniel, who was the coach only for Varsity Cheer at the time, that Paly should have a dance team.

The current coach, Alanna Williamson, started coaching for the team in 2015 as the assistant coach to Hilary McDaniel. Leading up to when Williamson took over as head coach in 2018, the team transitioned to a more intense training regime where they moved from practicing only twice a week to four to five days a week in addition to with competitions and routines.

“The transition to establishing our team as a professional, competitive and rigorous team took some time, but the dancers now are extremely talented, hard-working and dedicated,” Williamson said.


The team trains year round with a grueling schedule including 10-15 hours of practice and choreography a week. Auditions open in May or April and the season starts by hosting dance camps and attending the USA Dance Camp during the summer. Right before the school semester starts, they begin their in-season practices. 


As a year-round sport, the team does different activities for each season. During the fall season, the team captains choreograph, practice, and perform a new routine during every home football game. These unique routines not only rile up the audience but also cultivate Paly pride.


Marilyn Yin (‘22) and Riley Herron (‘22) became the captains of the team at the start of this school year and have been choreographing most of their routines for halftimes. By using both of their creative minds, they are able to create routines that rile up the audience.


“A lot of the choreography during football season comes from a four-day workshop we do over the summer where we learn a ton of different combos which we repurpose & amend,” Yin (‘22) said.


In addition to choreographing routines to perform in front of the school, they also work together with professional choreographers to plan their competition routines. During the winter season, they prioritize practicing for the competitions that start in January. 


Our competition pieces are choreographed by myself and other outside professionals,” Williamson said. “This year we worked with Shiyo Yamamoto for our Pom routine, Sarah Kucina for our Character routine, and Jia Huang for our Contemporary routine. Our seniors also worked with outside choreographers as well.”


To end off the year with a bang, the team holds their annual spring show that consists all the routines they have performed during the past year.


Through their rigorous practice that begins in the summer and runs all the way through the spring, they are able to create an end product that they all are proud of due to not only their applaudable efforts, but also their deep chemistry.


This deep chemistry that they share has played a huge role in getting them nation-wide recognition as of the best high school dance teams in all of California. They have ranked in the USA Nationals for four years in a row from 2015-2019.


“It’s like one big group of friends, we have our inside jokes & memories, and we’re all united by the fact that we love to dance,” Yin said.


Yin and Herron have been working hard to make sure the team environment is positive and supportive.


“Since we spend so much time together, we’re like a family,” Yin said. “We also don’t just see each other at practice, we have events outside of school, like holiday parties, where we can hang out and interact in less of a structured setting.”


These events are planned by Coach Williamson to help maintain their close friendships.

The girls doing a routine at a football game. Photo courtesy of Karen Hickey.

“We work very hard to embed in bonding activities throughout the year, and that helps us be better teammates to each other at practice as well,” Coach Williamson said. “[The team] has a great understanding that we only succeeds when everyone succeeds; we rely completely on each other.”

With their unshakable team dynamic, they feel as if they represent a variety of different things.


“I feel like our team represents such a different aspect of Paly,” Herron said. “Dance and cheer are one of the few teams who are in the gym year-round. We’re also there to support and cheer on other teams which is super unique.”

Moving forward, the dance team is sure to remain an established, iconic program at Paly. With the sport becoming more popular in the past few years, Paly will have a plethora of new dancers ready to adopt the team culture. 


“I look forward to the team continuing to be a supportive, kind community within Paly in the future,” Sam Yamashita (‘22) said. “I hope many Paly students will take advantage of the opportunity to perform, create, and raise school spirit all at once.”