Marlboro HS Dancers Win National Spotlight With Hip Hop Routine

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MARLBORO, NJ — A coach with a love of dance, supporting a team of determined student dance athletes, led to a dream fulfilled this month at the High School Dance Team Nationals in Orlando, Fla.

Coach Alexandra Parrino said the Marlboro High School Dance Team began participating in this Universal Dance Association national event just three years ago, after competing regionally around the state for 10 years.

There are three rounds of the competition, said Parrino: prelims, semis and finals.

“We have never made it past prelims until this year!” she said upon the team’s return home – a return that came with a local police escort to recognize the occasion, she added.

And getting into the finals was groundbreaking for the team, 15 members of which performed Feb. 4 in the Medium Varsity Hip Hop category, dancing to a mix of five different songs.

“We made it to finals for the first time and placed 11th in the nation,” Parrino said. “There are only six teams in the state of New Jersey to attend this competition. This is a huge accomplishment and a first for Monmouth County,” she said.

You can see the team’s routine on its Instagram site: @marlborodance.

The moves in the routine are complex and strenuous – as much sport as art.

The team’s girls are “absolutely student athletes and the routines are very athletic and demanding,” Parrino said, adding that multiple judges score the team on execution and complexity of skills and movement, synchronization, stage spacing, communication and projection, and choreography.

Marlboro High School has had a dance team for many years, Parrino said, adding that other schools in the six-school Freehold Regional High School District also have teams.

But the Marlboro Dance Team, drawn from Marlboro students, is the only one that has engaged in such wide competitions, she added. Stephanie Mullin, a math teacher in the district, is the assistant coach and has worked with the dance team since its start, Parrino said.

She said the UDA High School Dance Team Nationals is the most prestigious dance team competition in the country.

“These athletes have worked so hard for this,” Parrino said.

And Parrino herself is a product of the regional district, having attended Manalapan High School.

She went to college at West Chester University where she was on its dance team that competed at the college version of the competition – the UDA College Nationals.

“I wanted to give these girls the experience that I had,” Parrino said. “Being a part of a college dance team, working toward a goal, and attending this competition taught me lessons I carry with me to this day and gave me memories I will cherish forever.”

The other five high school teams from the state that competed at this event were Hillsborough, Barnegat, Hunterdon Central, Jackson, and Holy Angels Academy in Bergen County.

Parrino said the Marlboro Dance Team made it to the finals in the Medium Varsity Hip Hop category. She said Holy Angels won first place in the Small Pom category, making it the highest scoring state team.

The UDA High School National Competitions has been in existence for more than 40 years, and is the “culmination of the season for dancers across the nation,” the organization says.

For the Marlboro team, the experience was a credit to their dedication, Parrino said.

“These dancers put in a countless number of hours and effort and truly love what they do. They have been working since the summer, which has included many long weekend practices and late nights at the high school on top of their studio dance. They truly are an amazing group of girls,” Parrino said.

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