Dancing is physical.
Dancing is taxing.
Dancing is competitive.
Above all, dancing is a sport.
The Perrysburg High School dance team recently won some impressive hardware to prove that dancing can be more than just having fun moving to the sound of music.
"I don't think most people understand what it really takes for even a two-minute dance routine," Perrysburg dance team coach Marny Mazzarella said. "They have to smile and look like they're having fun through the whole routine and I don't think people realize how hard it is to do until they try it."
Mazzarella's team delivered a winning performance at the AmeriCheer/AmeriDance International Championships in March at the Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.
The 11-member team successfully won first place in the jazz competition and also brought back two runner-up awards - one for pom and another for kick.
Perrysburg finished second in the kick competition to nearby rival Findlay High, which was the only other team from northwest Ohio competing in the event that requires meeting certain qualification standards for entry.
"I think it was probably the best they've ever performed the routine," Mazzarella said of the first-place effort performed to the song Kill The Lights sung by Britney Spears.
"The crowd was into it and it was a really strong ending."
The group's overall effort against competition from across the globe reflected what they had done during months of practice and competitions leading up to their season-ending event.
Mazzarella, who has coached the Yellow Jackets dance team for 11 years, considered their showing last month one of the top team efforts during her tenure.
"I was very happy," she said. "It was a great ending to a very long season."
The Yellow Jackets' journey to the international event began nearly nine months earlier. Mazzarella said tryouts for the team are usually held each May. The team is formed and begins meeting for initial workouts during the summer before the start of the school year.
Once the school year begins, they compete in statewide competitions and also perform during school events, including halftimes of sporting events.
Michelle McConkey, a senior co-captain, has studied dance for 13 years.
To come away with a national championship and two runner-up finishes at the recent competition in Orlando stands as a major highlight.
"It was pretty amazing to compete with other teams from around the country and it was amazing to accomplish what we accomplished throughout the year," McConkey said.
The Yellow Jackets advanced to the AmeriCheer/AmeriDance competition after nearly sweeping the top spots at the state competition held in Mansfield.
The Yellow Jackets claimed victory at the state tournament in jazz, pom, and lyrical while also placing second to Findlay in kick.
"It was only the second time in 11 years that we ever took on all four competitions," Mazzarella said.
"It was a busy day for them and it was a good finish."
McConkey and fellow senior co-captains Elle Finch and Kaela Kuderik typically led the Yellow Jackets through rigorous 2 1/2 hour practice sessions.
They practice routines choreographed by Mazzarella over and over until they reach the point where they're all moving and stepping in unison to ultimately make the group look as one.
Passion for dancing and patience to work toward perfection help the Yellow Jackets complete each workout looking forward to the next one.
"It is very time-consuming and fun," McConkey said. "It is definitely a workout.
"It was very exciting to know that what all we put into the routine it showed what we worked for."
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org,