On a spring break morning, students from Renton High School gathered in a gym at an apartment complex. They couldn’t access the school facilities during break but needed to practice.
The students did a few warm-ups before getting into step, hoping their dancing can help them place in a Seattle-area competition.
Renton High School’s Black Student Union Dance team wants to take charge in this year’s Bubblin Brown Sugar dance competition at Garfield High School, where they will compete against seven other high school teams, in five to 10 minute dance routines.
Tyrone Crosby, who also goes by Koach T, is a board member of Bubblin Brown Sugar Competition with ties to Renton High School. He performed at the competition with Renton, his alma mater, around 2002, and later went on to coach Renton and Cleveland high schools for the competition.
This is the fourth year they’ve brought back the event, which began in the early 1980s. The event had a five-year hiatus and returned in 2016. Bubblin Brown Sugar is hosted by 100 Black Parents, a Seattle-area nonprofit that supports programs at Garfield High School and the surrounding area.
The event will have the most high schools competing since the comeback, Crosby said. Renton will be up against the following high schools: Federal Way, Todd Beamer, Cleveland, Rainier Beach, Franklin, Highline and Garfield.
This year the celebrity guest judge is Kida the Great, a hip-hop dancer known for his Instagram videos and winning “So You Think You Can Dance: Next Generation” in 2016.
The competition offers awards for first, second and third, as well as “Crowd Favorite,” “Best Costume” and “Best Theme.”
For Crosby, he said he was at a loss of words to describe the event when he was a dancer. He said it was overwhelming and amazing to be surrounded by large dance groups from around the area.
Renton High’s current team has been practicing for two months now. Vonte Marquiss is the president and choreographer for the team, and after four years he said it’s shaped who he is today.
“I love three things, I love to dance, I love to step and I love to compete,” Marquiss said in an email.
Crosby said he sees a lot of himself in Marquiss — he was also that new kid with a huge drive and passion for dance.
Faith Sauls, a junior, is vice president of the dance team. This is her third year with the team. She said last year they performed at Bubblin Brown Sugar and now they know what they’re getting themselves into.
“We have more strategies and a bigger team this year,” Sauls said.
Ari Wilcox, secretary and treasurer for the team, said last time their dance was more step routine, and now it’s shifted to better align with the competition. For choreography, Marquiss said that he really had to study and strategize after last year’s competition.
Crosby briefly attended a team practice, and said he feels like Renton will be a Cinderella story this year.
“Last year they came in as a step team, seemed to be a little blindfolded,” Crosby said. “As I was making my rounds to all the schools (this year) and just being there for a few short minutes, I could tell that they’ve taken the experience and applied it.”
As his alma mater, Crosby said he would love to see them come through and smash the competition as he did when he danced for Renton. He said his team placed second that year.
Natalia Reaves, a member of Renton’s dance team who also performed with the team last year, said they will probably be underestimated based off last year’s performance.
Reaves said this competition is one of the few chances for competitive dance in the area.
Crosby said most school dance teams have high costs, so this competition gives kids who love to dance, but don’t have the money to invest in an elite dance team, a chance.
Winners get bragging rights and the traveling trophy, he said. Dancers are also introduced to a huge network of other students they wouldn’t have known, and possibly get spotted by dance company owners, and judges.
Crosby said sometimes you can’t always afford your dreams, but this dance competition helps give kids that same experience.
“This is a competition that can be set on a stage that doesn’t make or break them. It just continues to inspire and push them,” Crosby said. “All it costs is their love for dance, their passion and dedication.”
Renton freshman Priscilla Hagan said she thought the team was just step when she joined. While this will be her first year at Bubblin’ Brown, she said she’s been excited and interested in dancing for four years.
Although the theme of the dance is a secret, it’s clear from the practice that it’s dynamic, fun and will make the audience move.
“I definitely looking forward to Renton leaving their hearts on the stage,” Crosby said.
The team still hasn’t met their goal for prices of the costumes. While they have the bulk of their outfits figured out, they still need some props and accessories to complete their look.
Their GoFundme is still available at: https://www.gofundme.com/6ug1jxs
The competition takes place April 27 at 4 p.m. at Garfield High School.
“(Renton High School) Dance Posse is ready for Bubblin Brown…” Marquiss said. “Are they ready for us?”