April 11, 2021
National Victories: AHA’s Varsity Dancers Earn Fifth Hip-Hop Title; JV Wins First UDA Championship
Holy Angels’ quest for a fifth national title in small varsity hip-hop concluded this month in Orlando, as the dominant dancers reclaimed the number one spot they held in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. The Academy’s junior varsity team also topped the Universal Dance Association’s leader board, executing a pom routine that earned that squad its first national title.
Varsity backed up its championship by finishing second in pom, while JV took second in hip-hop. All of these hard-earned wins followed varsity and JV’s sweep of first place awards in state competition.
AHA Head Coach Jenny Sweet and Coaches Alyssa Aponte (AHA’12) and Kristen DePeri (AHA ’09) are delighted with the success of their program. AHA’s varsity team has placed in the top three or better for eight of its 10 years, and held the national title for five of the last six years. JV, which has been competing nationally since 2014, has consistently finished in the top five, and has earned several second and third place finishes. The JV team’s 2021 title represents the realization of a long-time goal.
AHA’s varsity champs are Carmela Alessio of Belleville, Natasha Vafiadis of Englewood, Olivia Martinez of Paramus, Giselle Martin and Katie Fragola of Bergenfield, Valeria Pernicone of New Milford, Bridget Ryan and Noelle Wacker of Emerson, Tamara Kim of Demarest, Ella Cho of Alpine, Hannah Kim of Cresskill, and Arwen Parmelee of Upper Saddle River.
The JV titlists are Kaitlin Grifonetti of Old Tappan; Ani Gueyikian and Kate Gorohovsky of Fort Lee; Lydia Schmidhauser of Pomona, New York; Jordyn Wynn and Caelyn Lindsay of Englewood; Isabella McMahon of West Orange; Maggie Yu of Tenafly; Maggie Danahy of Oradell; Juliet Gelineau of New Milford; Alexandra Nicholas of Emerson; and Olivia Leys of Tappan, New York.
“The competition was fierce! Although the event was smaller than in previous years, the legacy programs who consistently earn top honors were in attendance,” Coach Sweet noted. “The UDA National Championship is widely recognized as the most prestigious competition for high school and college dance teams. Dancers come from all over the country and the world for a chance at a title. To win here is to be at the highest elite level in the sport.
“The amount of planning and detail that go into preparing a nationally ranked team in normal season is daunting, but with the pandemic in 2020-2021, this was pushed to almost insurmountable levels,” Sweet acknowledged. “This season brought canceled events, restricted travel, interrupted practice schedules, and virtual dance classes.”
The coaches kept their teams engaged, and worked closely with AHA’s administration to make sure everyone remained safe, healthy, and active.
Sweet pointed out that the dancers made extraordinary personal sacrifices this season.
“They were required to go above and beyond the normal social isolation for much of the season by choosing virtual learning, even when in-person was possible,” Sweet explained, adding that the dancers learned all the choreography via virtual platforms.
She said the teams’ successes are achievements the entire school community can celebrate.
Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious high school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.