PERFORMING ARTS: New dance team shakes up high school

Team members are top row, left to right: Head Coach Toni Lynn Mills, Joleigh Helton, Hannah Wray, Kariyia Pickens, Katlyn Mullins and Assistant Coach Megan Sawyers. (bottom row, left to right) Ashley Bondurant, Olivia Michie, Malasia Witcher and Aaliyah Liles. (Not pictured: Kristen Bryant and Harley Brown).

The Franklin County Eagles Fly Girls dance team plans to perform at pep rallies and games.

Hip-shaking, hair flips and hip-hop choreography are just a few of the moves that Franklin County

High School’s newest dance team will showcase during school functions next year.

The FCHS Eagles Fly Girls are the first of their kind at the high school.

The team consists of 10 girls, freshman through seniors, many of whom have backgrounds in dance training, adding to their skill set.

And these girls can move.

The dance team was formed by Franklin County native Toni Lynn Mills and high school librarian Megan Sawyers. Mills acts as the team’s head coach and Sawyers as the assistant coach.

"Megan and I teach zumba, cardio dance and cardio fitness for the Y and parks and rec," Mills said. "We’ve actually both taught and taken dance at Blue Ridge [Performing Arts Academy] and competed together."

The high school has never had a dance team, according to Mills, "and we were just talking one day and said, ‘let’s do it.’"

Try-outs for the team were held in April (and will be held yearly in the future) and the first dance workshop was held this week at the Blue Ridge Performing Arts Academy in downtown Rocky Mount.

Another workshop is scheduled in August at Roanoke College with the college’s dance team. Once the school year begins, Mills said the girls will practice once a week or once every two weeks.

"They have a lot of talent here," Mills said. "A lot of young talent, a lot of up-and-coming talent. They’re very excited, too. It’s been a long time in the making."

The team will mostly perform hip-hop and jazz routines for the high school. Their hope is to perform at pep rallies and halftime at some of the football and basketball games.

"It’s going to be high-energy music," Sawyers said. "You want to pump the crowd up."

Mills said the girls expressed interest in dance competitions, "but we’re not there yet," she said. "We’re brand new so we just want to see how it goes. But in the future we hope to do that."

Rising senior Katlyn Mullins, 17, said she tried out for the dance team because she likes to dance and her friends pushed her to do it.

"I don’t dance a lot outside of my room so going out somewhere and dancing is fun," she said.

Although Mullins doesn’t have a background in dance, she was a gymnast for nine years and started taking taekwondo classes about three years ago.

She said she uses her skills and technique from gymnastics and incorporates it into her dancing.

"I’m looking forward to performing with all of these girls and going out and showing people what we’ve been working on because we worked hard at it."

Rising freshman Hannah Wray, 14, said she has been dancing for seven years at the performing arts center and is skilled in ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop and contemporary.

She said she’s most looking forward to performing in front of her friends at the high school.

"I love the dance that we’ve been learning, it’s really fun," Wray said. "And I like dancing with everybody and working together."

Since the team is starting from scratch, Mills said she is looking into holding a fundraiser as well as sponsorships to raise money for performance shirts and uniforms for the girls.

She said potential sponsors can make a donation directly to Franklin County High School and specify that it’s for the dance team.

The team also has a Facebook page, FCHS Eagle Dance Team, where there are photos of the girls working on dance routines.

"It’s cool to get another art in the school," Sawyers said. "These girls work so hard that it’s really neat that they’re able to showcase what they do to their school. They may not play softball or basketball but this is their way to show school spirit."

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