ROCK SPRINGS – Rock Springs High School has been a force in the high school dance scene since its inception in 2002, winning six state titles and only ending the season trophyless on two occasions.
The program was jumpstarted by Rock Springs High School alumna Laura Christensen after she moved here from Sedalia, Missouri and made Rock Springs her home.
“I moved here when I was six years old,” Christensen said about her youth years. “I did competitive dancing and was a scholarship winner for numerous dance conventions. I took part in talent competitions and little things like that.”
Christensen actually took a different athletic route in high school.
“When I got to high school, I just danced at my studio and did cheerleading and actually ran track as well.”
Christensen made her way to Dallas years down the line but made her way back to Rock Springs and started to teach at a local dance studio when she had an idea that she couldn’t ignore.
“I had a friend who had a dance studio here and I decided to help her out and teach locally,” Christensen explained. “It came to my attention that there was no Lady Tigers dance team, so we just decided to begin a new program with the high school in 2002.”
Since Christensen’s innovative idea, Rock Springs has added rings to their illustrious history, as well as winning the 2021 Jazz and Hip-Hop State Championship.
“We actually start at 5:30 in the morning,” Christensen said with a chuckle when describing a Lady Tiger dance practice. “Five days a week for the girls. It starts with a run, then a stretch, and conditioning. After that we get into dance routines and techniques.”
Christensen admits that this schedule isn’t easy on her girls, since they have to be ready for class around 8 a.m., but she has found the benefits of her early bird approach.
“It is tough,” Christensen said of her strict practice schedule. “I’m not going to say it is easy on the kids, but I’ve actually found it to be more productive in the morning then it is in the afternoon. They actually go to other studios in the evening to train, so they are busy and really working hard throughout the week.”
When quizzed on if COVID is the cause for the suspicious absence of a 2020 state title, the Missouri native wasn’t willing to make excuses.
“It was difficult, but we had really good competition. Every year, it gets better and better in our state. Lately, we’ve gone back and forth with Kelly Walsh, and we only lost to them by like a tenth of a point that year. I don’t really know if I consider that a loss because we both danced beautifully. After that point, it’s out of her hands. We are a pretty subjective sport, so we don’t have the opportunity to score one more basket or throw one more touchdown. We have two minutes on the floor, and we are either doing our job or we aren’t.”
As defending state champions, the Lady Tigers will be defending their crown (or tiara) in a few short weeks and Christensen does admit to finding it difficult keeping her girls motivated.
“It is hard. We have to push, and it is early in the morning. I do think it is a lot of pressure on them and the coaches also feel that pressure, but I do think we also rise to the expectations that are given to us. I just feel like we do well under pressure.”
Pushing her girls every morning is just one of Christensen’s motivational tactics. Christensen also has a team mantra that she instills in her team.
“We before me,” Christensen said of the team’s mantra. “This year, we are trying to focus on being a solid group. We are a young group with no senior dancers. We have six juniors and two junior captains. The rest of the team are freshmen and sophomores, so we are extremely young, and we have a lot to learn but we are doing really well. I find them pretty advanced for their young age and they were even able to qualify for our nationals when we went to dance camp this year. They placed silver in the elite division, which is a professional division, so we have been really proud of them.”
Celebrating 20 years since she began the program, Christensen found it difficult to pick out a memory that stands out from all the fun she has been a part of.
“Oh gosh!”, Christensen said after trying to recall her favorite memory as a Lady Tiger coach after 20 years at the helm. “I just love to see a happy group of kids, every day. Obviously, there are fabulous performances and state championships, but I just really love to see happy and healthy children. That is what is best for me.”
For her farewell, Christensen wanted to share the spotlight with her wonderful assistant coach Amber Serna.
“She deserves a lot of credit. She’s been a fabulous part of our program for the last six years and she’s an extraordinary coach. I really love having her, so this isn’t all about me. I honestly couldn’t do this without her.”