Alayna reflects over her past drill/dance season, sharing what she has been up to during quarantine and how the upcoming season will look.
With the new school year in full swing, students’ schedules are beginning to fill up once again. Unlike the beginning of the pandemic, zoom/microsoft meetings are now part of the new normal. Not only are they used for work and school; many dance studios and teams rely on these tools to continue practice. This is the case for high school junior Alayna Li, captain of Newport Drill Team and dancer at Hengda Dance Academy.
Ever since Alayna was young, she has been very active, participating in various activities ranging from soccer, piano, art, gymnastics, swimming, and dance. Dancing was one of the activities she was able to consistently pursue. To her, dance is not only “centered around expression and emotion,” but also a quest “to fully understand the heart of a piece.” In order to do so, she says you must “understand and ultimately connect with the people around you that you dance with.”
Having consistently placed at the state tournaments in the past few years, there is no question that Newport Drill Team has made a reputable name for themselves. Not only are they well-known to be an incredible drill team in the Washington state drill/dance community, but they are also loved by the students of NHS. For Alayna, drill is where she has “come to make some of [her] closest friends despite originally getting to know each other with only drill in common.”
Like other sports and teams the past spring, the pandemic put a complete halt to their previous season. Both their 2020 Districts and State competition were cancelled. “It was a huge hit to the team morale; it honestly felt like we had done hundreds of hours of practice over seven months for nothing. We never got to perform on the floor that one last time, and, in the moment, it was extremely disappointing” Alayna says.
However, reminiscing back, Alayna has chosen to stay positive. “[There was] one last practice we had in which, knowing our season had ended, we all just sat in our coach’s classroom and cried. In hindsight, it is definitely still a huge letdown that we weren’t able to go to state, however, our hard work definitely wasn’t in vain– even if we don’t have anything tangible to show for our efforts, we can still channel that improvement into this season and all future seasons.”
Although the pandemic is preventing the team from meeting in person, pushing back and condensing their competition season into mostly June of next year, the Newport drill team has decided to proceed with the 2020-21 drill season. They have been meeting over Zoom since early August. Even though being apart physically is not ideal for a sport that relies heavily on the flow and change of the team as a whole, during this time apart, Newport drill team has been able to experiment with new things . In addition to focusing more on individual skills, “We’ve been doing some different kinds of exercises, and have also been trying out different categories of dance/drill. We usually stick to military (a category centered in sharpness and uniformity) and kick (a category filled with long kick lines/sequences and focus on uniformity) in our competition season, but in the last couple months we’ve tried out some hip-hop, jazz, and pom!” Alayna shares.
Hengda Dance Academy has also moved completely online and has been meeting over zoom since March. “Just recently we have been allowing only a couple students to be actually inside the studio, masked up and socially distanced, to participate in in-person classes,” Alayna says.
Despite the restrictions the pandemic places on Alayna’s dance activities, this period of isolation and rest has brought out a lot of positive outcomes for her on the physical and mental level. When asked about any existing injuries and the impact quarantine has had on it, Alayna answered, “Quarantine has, for the first time in many years, given my body the time to rest for a sufficient portion of time. Many of my previous ongoing injuries -for example, I had been going to physical therapy for my knees -have recovered significantly simply by not overusing them.”
On a mental aspect, Alayna shares how recently she has started to do things “because of an actual, personal drive for self growth.” This mindset helps her stay motivated in sticking with her workout schedules and activities, even if it is very different from what she is used to. Staying motivated while stuck at home as an athlete is no easy task. So when we asked Alayna if she had any advice regarding this, she answered enthusiastically, “Find new ways to keep in shape! Working out is hard, but it’s even harder if you hate it. Try out something new–if you don’t usually run, run! If you’ve never tried HIIT, or pilates, or barre, just give it a try. Switching things up can motivate you to stay active and continuously pursue an activity goal.”
Outside of the sports world, Alayna has also been able to pick up some new skills and old hobbies. She has been learning to play the guitar and get back into reading. “Some of the books I’ve gotten through have included the first Lord of the Rings book and Room.” Additionally, during this quarantine, Alayna has been able to try out various new cooking recipes. “I started out baking, when I made banana bread (of course), lots of cookies, all sorts of different cakes, etc. but recently I’ve been on a journey to find healthier recipes (that still taste good)! For example, I just recently made stuffed bell peppers, which were super good, and protein pancakes or yogurt bowls for breakfast!”
We asked Alayna if she thinks life will ever go back to normal. She responded optimistically that it will and added “but I’m hoping this pandemic will have bettered life not just on a personal level, as we discover our personal goals and motivators, but on a global level as well, as we work to bring light to and find ways to eliminate the social injustices BIPOCexperiences daily.”
With that, Alayna leaves us with these encouraging words and reminders. “Push through this rough time as well as you can, work out to keep your mind clear, and mask up!”