Dance team soloist scores first place at recent competition

“Most of [the practice] included just running through it and since I practiced by myself, I would record myself and then watch it back to see what I could change,” Chen said. Chen rehearses in costume at Dellos dance studio.

Junior Rachel Chen takes a deep breath and begins her solo. She spent hours perfecting each move and years working on her craft. As the livestream nears its end, Chen watches in shock when her name is called for first place. 

Chen competed at the West Coast Elite (WCE) dance competition for representing Walnut High School (WHS). She  recorded her solo at Dellos Dance and Performing Arts studio with her phone and submitted the recording a few days before the livestream performance. On Saturday, Feb. 6, the performances were livestreamed to the judges for two to three hours, and Chen’s placing was announced at the end. 

“I was shocked and surprised,” Chen said. “I never expected that I would get first place or any top placings because it was my first time and everyone else was so good.” 

The solo itself was in a contemporary dancing style. Different from her previous dances, Chen’s costume was full-length with pants and the music she danced to had no lyrics. The choreographer for her solo, Dasha Tertova, presents Chen the music and they build on the choreography as they meet. 

“This dance is different [from] what I usually do because it’s contemporary and the music [was] instrumental with beats [which] is really cool,” Chen said. “Also, the choreographer’s choreo is usually cool so I was really excited to learn it.”

Chen has been on Dance Team since her freshman year. During the summer of 2020, Walnut High School’s  Dance Team coach, Audrey DeGuzman, announces solo spots for the upcoming school year. Since Chen signed up to be an officer and obtained the position, she was granted a spot for solos.  

“I’ve always really looked up to the team because I had older friends that were on [it],” Chen said. “They were all so nice and good [at dance], so I was nervous when trying out.”

Leading up to the solo, Chen practiced roughly 30 minutes a day. When she began learning the choreography, she had three in-person classes, each lasting an hour over a two-week span. Practicing ranged from private lessons with her coach to filming herself doing the solo, rewatching it and fixing certain areas. Additionally, Chen turned her garage into a home studio so she could practice without having to travel. 

“Sometimes dance might be hard, [but the] people around you encourage you to keep on working hard,” Chen said. “Together, everyone works hard and it’s nice to have a supportive environment to be in.”

By Rikka Tagayuna, Scene editor
Photo courtesy of Rachel Chen