The Branford Hornets’ dance team is certainly living a legacy, winning their seventh consecutive hip-hop state title without skipping a beat. In addition, the Hornets’ jazz routine earned second-place honors.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Jacqui Montano, who is in her first year as head coach of the team. “There was a lot of pressure to keep the legacy going as a new coach so it was a really good feeling when we won. Everyone was crying – it was definitely a good moment.”
While this is Montano’s first year as head coach, she came on as an assistant to longtime coach Jackie Dunn during the 2010-11 season. Dunn still is on board as well, now assisting Montano with the program.
Having a new head coach wasn’t the only change for the Branford dance team, either. For the first time ever, the Hornets competed in the large varsity division, which has “more teams and is more competitive,” according to Montano.
The team, which entered local competitions in Connecticut and New Jersey during the regular season and Nationals in Florida in February, isn’t done competing yet. The top two teams in each category earn a spot at Regionals in Braintree, Massachusetts, later this month, which means Branford will compete in both jazz and hip-hop.
“Even though we qualified last year, we couldn’t go because of scheduling conflicts,” said Montano. “We’re excited to go. It would be awesome to win, but placing in top three is a goal any time we go to local competitions.”
Montano credits her senior tri-captains for much of the team’s success. Erica Celantano, Nicole Luzzi and Kelly Parker captain the team of 18, brining “a lot of energy and motivation.”
“They make sure the team feels more like a family, that there’s a connection outside of practice and off the dance floor, which translates well when you go to perform,” said Montano. “They are three of my best performers and turn up the energy on the dance floor so it will be hard to lose them next year.”