Pendleton dances to state title

Members of the Rhythmic Mode Dance Team celebrate after winning the 5A state dance title.<br><I>Photo by Jacquie Hitzman

Traditionally, state championship dance teams learn they've won the title by hearing their dance music burst over Memorial Coliseum loudspeakers.

Late Saturday night, Pendleton High School's Rhythmic Mode Dance Team waited tensely on the Coliseum's high-gloss wooden floor, knowing they had a good shot at the first-place trophy. As Beethoven's 9th Symphony started playing, the dancers bounced to their feet, screaming in elation.

With the win, the team put a bookend on back-to-back 5A OSAA Dance & Drill state championships. The first-place trophy is the squad's third state title - the team also won in 2001.

The celebratory mood followed the team into the locker room and back to the motel.

An about 11 p.m., team members still were keyed up as they relived the moment.

"My entire body was filled with adrenaline," said dancer Morgan Kishpaugh. "I couldn't stop smiling."

"It was an amazing rush," said Kylie Cavallo, a senior. "The crowd just erupted."

A large contingent from Pendleton made the trek to Portland to watch two rounds of competition Friday and Saturday. During the identical performances, Rhythmic Mode danced to Trans Siberian Orchestra's version of Beethoven's 9th.

As the team took the floor, the master of ceremonies set the tone.

"My name is Ludwig Von Beethoven and I'm trapped in my own mind with deafness, darkness, and voices in my head," he said. "Set me free."

Dancers told the story of "Beethoven's Last Night" by dancing some complex combinations. The dancers wowed the judges with one series that included a four-point pique turn, a double pirhouette and ended with something called a Power Ranger, where one leg is extended in a 90-degree angle and the other leaps high, heel connecting with backside.

 The performance opened with a portrayal of Beethoven's pain and emotional suffering during his final day as spirits visited the agonized composer and gave him peace before he died. Senior Jesska Roesch, who danced the part of Beethoven, said the team was in the zone.

"The routine felt amazing tonight," Roesch said.

Senior Elizabeth Varner agreed, saying the team danced as one.

"It felt like we were all together - like a huge machine," she said.

Head coach Debbie Kishpaugh gushed with pride at her team's feat and said the team made a conscious decision this year to take on difficult and complex choreography and become technically strong.

"This is a special group of dancers and this has been a very special year. I couldn't be more proud of them as a team." said Kishpaugh. "They took our ideas and dreams and made them come together."

Kishpaugh, Coach of the Year in 2008, has taught three of the dancers, Jesska Roesch, Elizabeth Varner and her daughter Morgan Kishpaugh since age three.

"Words cannot express how excited we are for the team," said another of the team's five coaches, Lora Franks. "They worked hard this year and it paid off." 

 In addition to the state win, co-captains Jesska Roesch and Morgan Kishpaugh, were named to the 2009 Senior All-State Team. Seniors may try out in January, learning choreography and competing for a spot on the 22-member all-state roster.

The team will receive their championship banner at a yet-to-be-scheduled school assembly.

Kishpaugh said the community has embraced the team and thanked the 200-plus supporters who made the trip to Portland.

"We're very grateful to our community for its support," she said. "It means the world to us."

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