Clackamas cleans house at state dance competition

'Heartscape,' Clackamas High School's entry in the recent state dance competition, needs a bit of explanation.

The routine, which propelled the team to first place in the show division in the 2008 Dance Drill State Championships, was performed on a floor 'that was painted as an anatomical heart by artist Aaron Christensen,' coach Jessica Elliott said.

And the girls, in eye-catching purple outfits and blue face coverings, were 'de-oxygenated blood.'

The routine was set up to portray 'two ideas of the heart - the literal heart and the emotional heart, the joy of life and the sadness,' Elliott added.

During the course of the dance, the girls had a heart attack, then came back to life and at the end, they flat-lined, and rolled themselves up in the canvas floor.

'Some people wanted us to come back to life, but that's not how life works. Life is beautiful and then you pass away,' Elliott said.

How do you sell a routine like this to high school girls?

Well, Elliott said, Clackamas has developed a 'reputation for being different over the decades' and she and the team looked upon 'Heartscape' as 'bringing back a piece of Cavalette history.'

In 1995, she explained, the CHS dance team performed a successful routine with tights covering their faces, and it is still talked about in the dance team world.

Then, Elliott said, she and another coach, the choreographer and the show designer went to see 'Body Works' at OMSI, and 'we were attracted to the heart and the veins.'

The coaching team put together music from 'Mishima,' by Philip Glass, and added other musical pieces with the word heart in them.

As for the costumes, they purchased the purple jumpsuits, and 'moms made the blue veins,' Elliott said.

The face coverings were made from blue tights with zippers added, and the girls colored their feet purple, using hair dye.

Although the dance competition just ended, Elliott is already looking ahead to next year.

'We won last year with something very pretty, and this year we were different. This is the exciting part for coaches, looking at pieces on You Tube to see what music is out there. Asking for 2009, 'How we are going to be different?' ' she said.

Elliott, who has worked with the CHS team for five years, said she is proud of the 28 girls on the team, and added that the parents are very supportive.

'We were named second in the state for academics, with a 3.56 GPA,' Elliott said, noting that Naomi Chou won an academic scholarship of $700.

Chou also was named to the 6A all state dance team, and was fifth place in the 6A drill down.

CHS student Devan Gray placed first in the drill down and fellow team member Monica Steinhauer placed fourth.

Chou, who has been on the CHA team for four years, said this year 'the team was bonded more than any other year, and that made the championship more special.'

Her favorite part of the dance was the flags the team used this year, although she noted they were 'one of the most challenging props, because the sticks were long and flexible.'

Elliott said the flags added an element of surprise, as they were hidden under the floor covering.

She added that the state competition is a bittersweet time, because 'it is the last time the team will be together. But all good things must come to an end.'

To see a video of 'Heartscape,' visit:

Other winners from Clackamas County in the 2008 Dance/Drill State Championship:

6A large schools: Milwaukie High School dance team, fifth place; 1A-4A drill down first place winner, Kasondra Karr, LaSalle High School; and 6A all state dance team, Jade Horton, Rex Putnam High School.

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