Ridgefield High Dance Team wins its first competition at Woodland Regional Dance event

The Ridgefield High Dance Team, comprised of 27 girls and led by coach Taylor Jane Bobay, made history Jan. 15

The Tigers won a competition title for the first time in the nearly 20 years the program has been in existence.

In fact, the team came away with two titles. Thanks to a new, upbeat music mix and new choreography routine to match, the Tigers finished first with 283.4 points at the Woodland Regional Dance Competition. In addition to the point total giving the Tigers the overall title they came away with the hip hop division title as well.

“It was the most exciting day of my life,” said Bobay, who took over as coach in 2016. She graduated from Ridgefield in 2008 and was a member of the dance team.“We have come in third and fourth in competitions, but we never won before. And we did it by beating Fairfield Warde, the strongest team in the state. They are the defending state champion with seven titles.

“Our girls have all worked hard for this moment. They put in a lot of time and effort since last October for this season and it paid off. The moment after the girls performed, I cried because I knew they hit it, that they were going to get a good score.”

In past competitions, the team entered using one complete song to dance to with a corresponding choreography tailored to the song. This tim,e Bobay submitted music that had a mix of 4-5 songs and she changed the choreography.

“This year it all fell into place,” Bobay said. “The music changed tempo as a different mix of a song came on and the tempo of the choreography changed with it. The routine was fresh and as I put it together it flowed through me, it felt good.”

COVID-19 has also had an impact on dance competition. Last year there was no competition. This year the Tigers have had to practice and compete with masks on.

Experience has also paid off for the Tigers. There are 12 seniors on the dance team led by captains Eliza Morris, Claire Wilkinson, Hailey DeWalt and Lauren Toia. Due to the collective effort of the team to win the competition, the captains sat down and emailed a combined response for this story on what the first championship means to them and the team.

“Winning both the Varsity Hip Hop category and the Varsity Overall Championship has been such a crazy experience,” Morris, Wilkinson, DeWalt and Toia said jointly. “It was something we’ve always dreamed of and worked towards, but it seemed impossible until we finally achieved it. After learning this routine back in October, every single girl has been exhibiting high levels of hard work and dedication both in and out of practice, which greatly contributed to our success.

“With a total of 27 girls, including nine who have grown up on this team for the past four years, this is truly the strongest team we have ever had. The competition was especially talented at Woodland Regionals, so it means a lot for us to have won Grand Champs. With continued hard work, new costumes, and amazing choreography from our coach Taylor Bobay, we are very excited to compete again at the state competition in February and hope to take home another win.”

Next up for the Tigers is the 15th annual CAS/CSAC Dance Team Championships on Feb. 26 at Hamden High at 11:30 a.m. with divisions in Pom, Jazz, Hip Hop and Kickline. It is sponsored by the Connecticut Association of Schools/Connecticut Student Activities Conference under the CAS/CIAC umbrella, which governs high school sports in Connecticut. The New England Dance Team Championships will be March 12 at a site to be determined.

Bobay said the Ridgefield High Dance Team has become popular in town performing “intricate and memorable routines” at halftime for Ridgefield basketball and football home games.

“At one point going into this season I was considering not coaching because I recently had a baby,” Bobay said. “But I couldn’t let these girls down and I believed this team could do something special this year. I’m so glad I came back.

“We’re on everyone’s radar now. But going into the state championship we have some momentum. I really believe we have a chance to win the state title now.”