APTOS—Aptos High incoming junior Bella Garvey began dancing ballet when she was just 3 years old.
Since then, she’s continued to dance and slowly became part of what she calls her other family.
“I really like the performing aspect of it, just getting to perform in front of my friends and family,” she said. “I also like dancing with my best friends.”
Garvey and the Mariners dance team recently went to a USA Dance Team summer camp at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga to showcase their skills.
Garvey earned the Super Sensational award, which is given to the best dancer that works hard, is kind to others and is a strong dancer in both technique and performance.
Throughout the weekend, the judges picked dancers who stood out not just in dancing but for being hardworking and having a positive attitude.
Garvey beat out about 120 competitors from schools throughout Northern California.
Aptos had six dancers who earned All-American and five individuals who were Super Sensational finalists including Garvey, Milana Work, Amelia Valoroso, Juliana Alvarez and E Evans.
The Mariners had 16 of its 18 dancers reach the Super Sensational semifinals. They also earned the Hardest Working and Superior Performance team awards.
Mariners first-year coach Tanee Nausbaum said she was pleased with the team’s first big event of the season, especially because they’re a new team with new coaches.
“I feel like that is just a testament to them as not only athletes but people,” Nusbaum said.
Nusbaum and Alexis Valoroso along with assistant coach Dani Delgadillo took over the program after longtime coach Nadia Hinds stepped down in March.
Valoroso said that Garvey has been talking about winning the Super Sensational award since she heard about it.
“She was looking forward to it and setting her eye on the prize,” Valoroso said.
Valoroso said that Garvey is hardworking, kind, polite and she helps other dancers when they reach out to her.
The one thing that also stands out about Garvey is she’s always asking questions and looking for ways to improve her skills on the dance floor.
“She’s positive with us, she’s positive with everyone,” Nusbaum said. “She’s kind of a go-to for all of her other teammates to make sure they know what they’re doing.”
The dance team will do performances at the football game during the fall followed by an annual showcase on campus.
Then they compete multiple times in the regionals in January and February before heading off to nationals in Anaheim in March.
Nusbaum said the sport is gaining popularity and colleges are starting to introduce the program on campus.
She mentioned there wasn’t as big of an opportunity when she was attending college and schools are now starting to recruit dancers.
“It’s huge now,” Nusbaum said.
Nusbaum said that most colleges don’t have tryouts and it’s mostly recruits coming from the high schools.
Garvey said she never envisioned being able to have the opportunity to be recruited. She’s already visited a few camps for colleges and she finds it fascinating that it could be her in the same position one day.
“My goal is to just keep working hard so that I can stay on top,” Garvey said.
Garvey has been posting more on social media such as Instagram and TikTok. She’s also been trying to meet others who are involved in the dance world.
She and a duet partner have a TikTok account where they’ve gotten nearly 1.5 million views for one of their videos.
“I’m very fortunate to dance and it’s really special because not many people, I feel, do it,” Garvey said. “Getting to perform at football games and at rallies is pretty special to show people that dance is actually an important sport.”
The Mariners dance team is 19 deep this season. It was founded in 2011 by Sandra Staka.
The past two weeks they’ve been learning all four of their competition pieces along with a back-to-school rally and performances for football games.
One of the big things Valoroso wants the team to do is feel confident in themselves.
“I feel like [it’s] getting them confident and knowing that they’re good and right up there with those other high schools,” Valoroso said.
Both coaches would love to see schools within the area one day compete against each other in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League or Pacific Coast Athletic League.
Nusbaum mentioned there are plenty of great dancers outside of Aptos and Watsonville.
“Dance teams at school, I feel, is a growing sport,” she said.
Nusbaum said that dance opens a lot of doors for students looking to continue their career as a dancer.
“I feel like people used to think that there was just a one-way out like all you can do is move down to [Los Angeles] to do that,” Nusbaum said. “But now there’s so many options for dancers to do the same things as a football player.”
Valoroso said it’s nice for the dancers to be able to be a part of a sports team at the high school level. Plus, a lot of the dancers train 10-20 hours a week at the studio so it’s hard to join another sport.
“Being able to join their personal sport at their school and feel included and involved is something that I think is really important and Aptos is lucky to have,” she said.
Correction: The previous version of this story stated that Tanee Nusbaum and Alexis Valoroso took over the dance program after a one year absence due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is not correct. The dance team continued to compete under previous coach, Nadia Hinds.