Rhythmic Mode Dance Team out to defend title

Photo by Jackie Hitzman<br> The Rhythmic Mode Dance Team, of Pendleton High School, danced their way to first place at last weekend's competition in Tigard.

Pendleton High School dancers have a lot to prove this year, but are dancing ever closer to a shot at defending last year's state title.

The Rhythmic Mode Dance Team won a dance competition this weekend in Tigard and racked up some of the points necessary to qualify for state.

"We're off to a really great start," said Rhythmic Mode Coach Debbie Kishpaugh. "They danced like champions."

The girls danced to Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Beethoven's Last Night" during the competition at Tigard High School. In the routine, one of the dancers, Jesska Roesch, dresses as Beethoven and is haunted by spirits on his last night alive, similar to Scrooge's experience in "A Christmas Carol."

After the competition, the teams sat on the floor awaiting the announcement of winning teams. Instead of hearing the school name over a microphone, the team's music came on the loudspeaker.

"The girls were sitting in a semi-circle when the winning music came on," said Jackie Hitzman, the mother of two of the Pendleton dancers. "They jumped up and hugged and screamed."

Kishpaugh couldn't be prouder.

"They're focused and keeping their eyes on the prize," she said.

Each team must dance in two qualifying competitions. Pendleton's chance to lock up an invitation to state comes in March. The state competition is March 20-21 at the Rose Garden in Portland.

Local residents have at least two chances to see Rhythmic Mode's state routine when the squad dances at halftime during two home basketball games tonight and Friday.

The two-time state champs also will host 26 teams at a PHS competition, Hearts in Motion, Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. at Warberg Court. As the sponsoring team, Pendleton will not compete, though the girls will dance an exhibition routine. Doors open at noon. Admission is $8. Children 5 and younger are free.

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