Mustang ballroom prevails despite injuries
Herriman High School’s ballroom team rehearses for the final showcase of the year that featured top radio hits. (Tori La Rue/City Journals)
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In a year of concussions, broken bones, sprained ankles and ligament tears, “Coach, I’m injured,” became a common phrase among Herriman High ballroom team members.
“It’s been an inside joke for us,” senior Sawyer Hutchings said, noting that the team added the line to its warm-up cheer.
But the team doesn’t worry too much about injuries, according to Hutchings. With 28 members, there’s always somebody willing to step in, he said. Hutchings was that somebody when a fellow teammate got injured the night before a performance. He learned the choreography within a few hours and was ready to fill in.
This was his opportunity for Hutchings to reciprocate the support his fellow dancers had given him during football season, he said. As a lineman and fullback on the Mustang’s football team, he broke his collarbone and was left unable to dance for a third of the year.
“It was rough, but you just get through it together,” he said.
Tim Wright, one of Hutching’s best friends and the co-president of the team, said the members became close through these tough circumstances.
“You have to learn how to trust to be confident, and not let whatever it is slow you down,” he said. “You gain a lot of friends here, and it helps you enjoy all the time together more.”
While Wright remained injury-free through the year, his teammates helped him through his own sets of challenges, he said. The 18-year-old has a prosthetic left leg and works with his dance partners to adjust his own balance and stability.
“Everyone is going through something different with this team,” senior member Aubrey Garside said. “We all just learned to be more selfless when someone is having a hard time or a hard day.”
Garside went through a physical challenge when she broke her knee on stage during the team’s performance at the closing assembly of 2015–16 school year. Although some people guess she was in the middle of a crazy lift when they hear of her injury, Garside affirms that it was a simple lunge that caused the damage.
“My leg twisted wrong, and it just blew out, so then I like fell over and grabbed my leg as I went down and screamed,” Garside said. “Everyone just kind of thought it was part of the dance until I didn’t get up.”
Garside’s kneecap had gravitated to the side of her leg, and the teammates who were next to her gathered around to find out if she was all right. Other teammates finished the dance before the curtain closed. The assembly continued in front of the curtain and Garside waited for help.
An ambulance came to assess the damage. Garside had broken her patella and torn a ligament. She couldn’t dance all summer and for the first part of the school year. Even now, she’s required to wear a knee brace when she dances.
“My first performance back, I was so scared,” Garside said. “I was partnered with Sawyer, and it was his first performance back as well after his collarbone, and I was shaking so bad. I was so nervous.”
But Garside and Hutchings managed to get through the routines without any complications, and they both said they started to gain confidence again.
“I learned more technique while I was watching and couldn’t dance, and that was surprising,” Hutchings said. “It really turned into a positive for me being out for a little while because I was also able to improve my footwork.”
Garside, Hutchings and Wright—and most of the other ballroom team members—are moving on from high school, but they each said they’ll never forget what they learned through their accident-prone team.
“It’s a different aspect of things you learn in ballroom than in any other type of sport,” Hutchings said. “You get a lot closer than other teams because it has an emotional side. You learn a certain amount of personal respect and how to be understanding.”