Precisionettes Stick Together, Cheer Each Other On Throughout COVID

Huddled behind the wings’ black curtains, the girls held hands in a circle while their coach gave a pep talk before their imminent performance.

“It’s the scariest thing ever, but you’re all so excited and pumped up,” said senior and Woodson Varsity Dance Team co-captain Grace Gelman. “And then they call you, and you’re on stage… I’m so focused on what’s happening at that moment that I almost forget there are judges!” 

The Precisionettes went on to win second place in the March 2020 nationals competition, barely weeks before the coronavirus lockdown began. Although the team will compete virtually in the Universal Dance Association’s nationals this year by submitting a video of their routine in April, Gelman said the performance enthusiasm will remain the same. 

Precisionettes performing at the March 2020 nationals. Courtesy of the Contest of Champion.

“Most of that feeling comes from the team around us, and I know we’ll be cheering each other on,” she said. “We’ll still get that feeling even though it won’t be on the nationals floor.”

Woodson dance’s tight-knit atmosphere survived the lockdown, and the girls launched into a busy, shortened season with their first practice on Feb. 16. Senior Eve McGuire, also one of this year’s team captains, described a typical afternoon practice.

Senior Night photo for the Precisionettes. Courtesy of Coach Schnebel.

“We stretch and condition for 30 minutes, then work on whatever routine we’re doing for that week for 45 minutes, then we use the rest of the time to practice sidelines and cheers,” said McGuire. Because the team has less time to prepare their routines this year, the team captains and coaches are recording videos of the choreography for the girls to learn in advance, allowing rehearsals to focus on formations and cleaning.

McGuire said dancing in masks has not been too hard for the team. “During practices, we get out of breath a lot more, but it is building our endurance a lot more, which I think is a positive,” she said. “We can’t really do facial… so we just have to smile really big and hope people can tell we are smiling.”

Gelman and the Precisionettes’ Coach Krissy Schnebel concurred. 

“Breathing honestly is fine, the only thing that’s difficult is that we can’t perform with our faces,” said Gelman, who added the girls are learning to express emotions with their eyes and eyebrows. 

Coach Schnebel said the team regards masks like any sort of medical device a dancer might need to wear, such as an ankle brace. “When you’re an athlete, you do what you need to do to be successful,” she said.  

The team photo is courtesy of Emily Jean.

One success for the Precisionettes already this season was receiving athlete classification so they could perform live at home football games without figuring into the spectator attendance. 

“We’re a competitive program and a competitive team, but the games and being a part of the school community are the most important things to the girls,” said Coach Schnebel. “I know if they hadn’t been able to dance at the games, that would’ve been a huge letdown for the season.”

 Instead, the team is enjoying every opportunity to hone and display their dancing skills.

“With the amount of things you as kids have lost over the past year,” said Coach Schnebel, “really the girls have just felt so grateful with anything we’ve been able to do, they’re so kind, they’re so gracious.” 

“Their level of dedication has been huge,” she continued. “I’ve really seen them grow just as much, if not more, as in any ‘normal’ season… just because of how much you as young people have had to adapt, and they’re doing a phenomenal job.”