NHS sisters Angelica and Sofia Laracuente Travel to Poland to Represent the U.S.
As a little girl, where my dance career would take me was always questionable. From dreaming of owning my own studio, to being on Broadway, my goals changed as I grew older and dreamed more realistically. However, performing on an international stage this winter in Poland and becoming a world champion never crossed my mind, at any age. An experience like that happens to one in a million, and I am beyond grateful I was chosen.
My sister and I train at 5678 Dance in Totowa, NJ. Our competition season generally starts in February and ends in May. Last season, we attended our “home” competition Beyond the Stars. Little did we know that one of our judges was a member of the American Dance Company. She scouted a few members of our studio and notified our director that she was very interested in what she saw.
The American Dance Company is a team of dancers and choreographers from all around the country who come together in Poland at the International Dance Organization representing the United States. Being a part of this team is not only an accomplishment as a dancer in this generation, but an honor to the United States.
Our journey with the ADC began in late August training in Boston, MA. The entire ADC “south” team trained for three straight 10 hour days to learn brand new choreography, clean up the dances, and prepare for the competition ahead. With only two travels to Boston, the team was able to put together a team that would later win a world championship.
As a whole, the team walked in to the event blind with no past experience of the pressure, intensity, and the rush of adrenaline. USA is also represented in Germany by the American Tap Company; therefore, Poland was a brand new participation for everyone. The dancer’s, directors, and families spent a total of 12 days in Poland. Dancers spent their entire days, dawn to dusk, rehearsing, conditioning, and mentally preparing for their performances. Each and every dancer shed their all, blood, sweat, and tears… literally. Unfortunately, the competition runs in rounds. For example, if 144 countries compete in the first round for a specific category, only half will continue onto the semi-finals. On a day of a performance, waking up around 7 a.m., even 6 a.m.sometimes was normal. Beginning the morning with a team breakfast, warmup, and rehearsal, next would be your time to get stage ready; full makeup, hair, costume, and USA warmup suit. Another routine run through would be next and soon after we head backstage before our category begins. Nerves start to kick in as you see other countries prepping for their performance, which is normal.
My personal favorite moment about competing in general in when my team and I pray together right before stepping onto the stage. The positive energy, vibes, and love for what we do all just makes me perform my very best. After performing, we immediately continue rehearsing for the next round; even without the results. Beyond the performance aspects, so much more came out of this trip for my sister and me.
Our lengthy getaway, to a foreign environment, far away from home brought us and our teammates that much closer. Developing friendships, even sisterly bonds, with people from across the country was something I will keep with me forever. As Americans especially, traveling to a whole other country is definitely a culture shock. Before departing, I was expecting things to be different from what I am used to of course, however, not this different. Aside from living in the states, being born and raised in New Jersey is a blessing and a curse. I did not realize how spoiled we really are with food! Being someone who is not only a big eater, but a picky one, made it extremely hard to find something I could eat, enjoy, and fit our diet set for our team. My breakfast on a daily would consist of a couple pieces of toast and an apple. Lunch would be a salad, mainly just lettuce. Lastly, dinner was usually some type of grain like a plain rice or if we had a night off my family and I would take a taxi downtown to an authentic restaurant. Experiencing the food was actually a highlight of my trip. I enjoyed the food and the people are all very friendly, making sure you are always taken care of and content with your meal.
Not only the Polish people being kind, the surrounding countries we competed against were pleasures to meet; such as Canada, Finland, Czech, Russia, Mexico, and more. My friend Sabrina from Nashville even was given a team Canada jacket at the end of the trip. That is just an example is what this whole experience is about; exposing yourself to new cultures, learning from diverse styles of dance, and soaking up every moment of this surreal experience. All of the above does not even show how grateful I am to have lived this and it will be something I cherish for as long as I can remember.
Overall, Team USA was walked away with four gold medals, one silver, and six bronze out of 3,000 dancers, 33 countries, and 6 continents. Even though world champs may sound just like a title, it feels like an accomplishment that was well deserved. The days of long rehearsals, sleepless nights, and stress all paid off in the end. What I am taking away from this trip is undescribable. The friendships, exposure to new lifestyles, and so much more will always be appreciated. Above all, what I will remember most will be how I changed as a person aside from a dancer. All in all, my trip to Poland with my team will be an experience I will always cherish and I will take what I learned with me throughout my career as a dancer and way of living as a person.