Looking back on a decade of coaching and a lifetime of dancing

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The Marquesas’ annual January potluck was a evening of fun for the dancers and their families alike, a way for the team to both bond and get the team excited for the upcoming competitions. Yet, it was also the night that history teacher and Marquesas coach Hilary Barron announced that she wouldn’t be returning as their coach after this competition season. Some dancers were surprised, but the decision was one that Barron had considered for several years. After years of considering leaving, she decided that it was finally time to step back and try something different. But up until the day she announced it would be her last season with the Marquesas, Barron recalls that her stomach was in knots, anxiously wondering whether she was really ready to leave the team that she loved so much.

“It’s like I’m devastated and exhilarated at the same time,” Barron said. “You know, exhilarated to have time and to do new things and try different things and free up a lot of that time but also devastated to lose that close connection that I have with the dancers and their families.”

The 2016-17 Marquesas concluded their last competition season with Barron as their coach with their annual banquet. Next year, current PE dance teacher Dasha Plaza will coach the team. Photo used with permission of Hilary Barron.

The 2016-17 Marquesas concluded their last competition season with Barron as their coach with their annual banquet. Next year, current PE dance teacher Dasha Plaza will coach the team. Photo used with permission of Hilary Barron.

Dancers on the team, however, know that the sport of dance is a huge time commitment. Barron has spent many of her after school hours and prep periods dedicated to the dance team over the past 10 years. With an award for best coach of the year at MVHS’ senior awards night last Thursday on May 25, Barron concluded her decade-long legacy coaching the Marquesas. Next year, current P.E. dance teacher Dasha Plaza will take her place.

Barron first started coaching as an assistant alongside Lori Palfalvi for a year before taking over. Palfalvi, who was then known as Ms. Graham, had also coached the Marquesas for nine years. According to Barron, Palfalvi is accredited for building much of the dance team program. Barron’s proud to have upheld the dance team’s high caliber of performance. She’s also introduced the dance team to the character division, adding an element of performance quality and levity to the team’s performances that Barron thinks was lacking before.

Ever since being on her own high school dance team, Barron’s known that she wanted to start her own dance team or coach one. As the captain of her high school dance team, she was comfortable leading her peers. But working with students was different and the level of closeness she has with her dancers now isn’t always something that came easily to her.

“In the beginning when I was first teaching, I came right from college into teaching and so I think I tried to dress and appear and act … more … in a professional way with my students,” Barron said. “I think it really took me a long time to relax a little bit more and to really try to reach out to the students in a more friendly kind of way.”

In high school, Barron’s dance team never won many competitions and in college — her team didn’t really compete. Barron says that it’s really only been with the Marquesas that she’s been able to achieve loftier goals. Winning at nationals the first time in 2010 and this year were two of the moments that stand out the most to Barron. At nationals, the dancers perform their routine once, and the top two finalists are picked to perform in the final round. During the first round, the Marquesas placed second. After the final round performance, Barron wasn’t expecting to win for their kick routine. Someone’s hat had fallen off and as a coach, Barron thought she hadn’t given the team enough time to rest before the performance. Yet sure enough, the Marquesas won the national kick championship.

“This time felt like the first time when I just [started]bawling like ‘what, oh my gosh’ and you just lose it,” Barron said. “There’s been other years when it’s like ‘I knew it was coming, I knew we had that’ but this one and the first one I just could not believe it.”

Barron and the 2016-2017 Marquesas at Nationals. The team became national kick champions at the competition, which takes place in Anaheim, Calif.

Barron and the 2016-2017 Marquesas at Nationals. The team became national kick champions at the competition, which takes place in Anaheim, Calif. Photo used with permission of Hilary Barron.

The dance team has its fair share of traditions, some of which even predate Barron’s coaching years, like Bob, the team egg. But one of Barron’s favorite traditions isn’t one of the Marquesas’ hashtags or chants, it’s an entire routine — the “Hey baby” routine that the Marquesas performs every year alongside the band at the Homecoming football game.

“That brings me back to my dance team days when we used to perform out with the band for the entire fall season and just that excitement of performing with live music,” Barron said. “And I think it’s special that it is a traditional routine that gets passed down from dancer to dancer and team to team.”

And if she only had one last piece of advice to give to the Marquesas as they move forward without her, it would be something she tells them often — to leave it all on the floor.

“You only get to perform in front of these judges once so grasp that opportunity and leave everything out there,” Barron said. “Like I tell my dancers ‘I want you to leave the floor knowing that you gave absolutely everything and that you killed it you know and that you could not have done more.’”

Moving forward, Barron is considering going back to school and will be teaching AP government next year. But even as she leaves behind her decade-long position as the Marquesas’ coach, the Marquesas on her team will always fondly remember her as their coach.

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Ilena Peng is a third year staff member and one of two editors-in-chief for El Estoque.