Victory dance for local poms coach
Libertyville's Nikki Lazzaretto watches with pride as her girls, newly crowned with a national dance championship, perform at a Lake Forest High School pep rally. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media
DANCING SINCE: age 3
YEARS COACHING: Nine
COACHING ROLES: at schools in Lake Forest, Libertyville, Mundelein
OTHER EXPERINCE: Teaches classes at Libertyville’s Dancenter North, 540 N. Milwaukee Ave., and other sites
Updated: April 15, 2013 2:11AM
LIBERTYVILLE — Long hours of practice paid off this month for Libertyville’s Nikki Lazzaretto and the dance team she coaches at Lake Forest High School.
The team earned a national title at the Universal Dance Association’s National Dance Team Championship competition in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 3.
Not only did the group land first-place in the Large Varsity Pom category, but they also placed eighth in Large Varsity Jazz.
The contest attracts more than 300 high school and all-star dance teams who compete in 17 categories. Roughly 10,000 people come to cheer them on each year.
Fresh from her team’s win, Lazzaretto shared what it took to earn this honor, and what it means to receive it.
Q: Take us back to the moment of the win. What were you feeling?
A: It was unbelievable. The whole place went crazy, all the parents went crazy. We’ve now all lost our voices! So many of the girls on the team described it as an out of body experience and I would have to agree. We almost hardly remember it. Going into a competition like this, you imagine and daydream about what the perfect scenario would look like and it was actually happening. We’re having a hard time wrapping our brains around it.
Q: What does this championship mean to you?
A: It means a lot, because the win isn’t just about this year’s team. It’s for the team the year before, and the year before that when we were just trying to break into the top five. Also, this particular title had been on lockdown for 10 years. A team from Indiana had won it for 10 straight years and we broke their streak.
Q: What do you love about coaching? What keeps you going?
A: I have a love for dance, but mostly it’s the fact that everyone on this team gives 110 percent all the time and everyone wants the same thing. That pushes me to do my best. Also the parents and the administration have been so supportive. It makes my job so much easier. Sometimes dance teams are pushed aside, because they aren’t considered real sports. But our athletic director doesn’t discriminate and is very accommodating. He’s so happy for us and always asks what we need. He cares about us as much as the football team.
Q: What has coaching taught you?
A: I’ve learned a lot. Every year I do it, I learn more about different ways to approach choreography. And I feel like the best learning experiences are when things don’t go your way. A lot of the time things didn’t go our way this year, but I’ve learned a lot from it.
Q: You’ve made dance your career. What would you say to those who want to do the same and aren’t sure if they can?
A: I would say there are many opportunities to dance and also do the other things you want. People who are dancers are passionately dancers and it’s part of who we are. It’s therapeutic. No matter what path you take in life, you can find a venue to dance as much or as little as you want.