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By DAVE HINTON
Rantoul Press editor
A Rantoul Township High School senior has danced for plenty of people in the past as part of the school dance team, but never this many,
Try more than 20 million.
That’s how many lined the 2-mile-plus parade route and watched the London New Year’s Day parade on the telly.
Kayla Schlittler, 17, was one of 1,200 male and female cheerleaders and dancers who performed in the parade. They were part of the Universal Cheerleaders and Universal Dance associations’ All-American team.
This marked the third year that Schlittler was named an All-American and was eligible to head overseas for the gala event, but this was the first time she took part.
Schlittler, who was accompanied on the trip by her father, John, spent eight days in London. Ironically, John did not get to see his daughter perform in the three-hour parade because he was seated in an area where she was not visible.
Kayla estimated the dancers performed their routine five or six times along the route that passed Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Trafalgar Square.
“Oh yeah!” she responded to a question of whether a large number of people were thronging route, which she said was “packed.”
She said the most memorable part of the parade was being able to perform it for the first time.
She credits her coach, Betty Jones; her teammates and her family for being able to attend the trip and for pushing her to improve.
Schlittler said before trying out for the RTHS dance team, she wasn’t very good at dancing.
“Mrs. Jones changed that completely,” she said, adding that it has made all the difference in how she will view her high school days.
Schlittler said being part of the dance team — and being involved in something that she’s good at and loves — made her more confident and will shape her for the future. (She plans to major in history and dance in college.)
Schlittler didn’t just put in the time practicing at high school to become a good dancer. She said afterward she would go home and spend a couple of hours on a dance routine, meaning she would spend three to four hours a day honing it.
For the parade, members of the All-American team were required to learn a routine, “What Makes You Beautiful” by British boy band One Direction. They practiced the routine at home via DVD, and Schlittler said she wasn’t sure if she could do it because it contained things she had never done before. But she eventually learned it.
Schlittler is part of a well-respected dance program at RTHS that, since the team has been attending the Universal Dance Association camp for 10 years, has qualified for nationals 10 times. While Schlittler was in London, other members were strutting their stuff elsewhere. (See related story.)
“She’s an excellent dancer,” Jones said of Schlittler. “Her ability to dance is outstanding.”
Schlittler said one thing was in the back of her mind during the trip to England. She is an epileptic, and she was nervous that she would have an epileptic episode while there. But her fears were never realized, and the only health problem she experienced was a cold.
While she was glad to get back to the United States, she said she’ll never forget her trip overseas.
“It was a trip to remember,” Schlittler said. “I learned (the Brits) are very different from America. The streets are smaller than ours, and their food is very different. The cars are way smaller.”
She said she liked some of the British food, but not most of it.
“I tried a ham and cheese sandwich, and it didn’t taste good,” she said.
Schlittler said the natives were “pretty nice” to the visitors.
The group had two free days during their London stay, and the Schlittlers spent the time exploring London by themselves.
They traveled on The Tube (the subway) and went shopping. They also viewed a number of historic sites — Big Ben, the Tower of London, Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, where they saw the guard (many people tried to make the guards show expression, to no avail), toured Westminster Abbey, where they stood in the same room where Prince William and Kate Middleton were married, and toured St. Paul’s Cathedral.
In the Tower of London, they viewed the crown jewels from monarchs of centuries past.
They also viewed a memorial to the Americans who died in World War II.
True to her love of dance, Schlittler said the favorite part of the trip was “performing in front of everybody.”
“I got to perform in a different country that I never thought I would go (to),” she said.
John Schlittler called the trip “very interesting, awesome, name it. It make us appreciate the States, I’ll say that much.”
RTHS DANCE TEAM PERFORMS FOR PREGAME SHOW OF CAPITAL ONE BOWL
New Year’s Day was eventful for members of the Rantoul Township High School dance team coached by Betty Jones.
Member Kayla Schlittler participated in the New Year’s Day Parade in London, and nine of her teammates took part in the pregame show for the day’s Capital One Bowl game that featured Georgia and Nebraska.
They were Lauren Hudson, Dahlia Goer, Heidi Hesterberg, Chelbrie Hinshaw, Brionna Henderson, Breona Rix, Bailee Waymouth, Rylee Waymouth and Mia Porter.
The RTHS team, which competed at camp against about 30 other teams, earned a superior trophy to qualify for the honor. The team was also named Most Improved Dance Team.
“Because we got those honors we had several options,” Jones said, noting that the team could either have participated in the Capital One Bowl or attended competition in Orlando in February.
The RTHS team left Dec. 29 and returned Jan. 2.
“We noticed when we got down there it was something cheerleaders go to,” Jones said. “I like to compete as a dance coach.”
More than 600 dancers and cheerleaders from across the United States participated in the pregame show.
“It was an excellent experience for us,” Jones said. “They’ve never been in a bowl game before. Many of the girls had never flown before.”
It wasn’t all dance and football for the dance team. The $1,000 cost for each girl included tickets to the major attractions — Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.
The RTHS dance team is part of a well-respected unit whose members regularly earn accolades. Dance team member Miranda Guyer was also selected to perform in the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Parade.
Jones has been coaching dance at RTHS for 23 years. Her teams have been part of dance competition in Orlando six times. This marked the first time they took part in a bowl game.
The journey to and from Florida was not without its trials.
The plane they were to board at O’Hare Airport in Chicago experienced mechanical problems, and the group had to wait at the terminal for more than six hours. The airline presented each member a $200 voucher and a free meal voucher.
“It was very tiring,” Jones said of waiting at the terminal.
The group finally arrived in Florida at 1 a.m. and had to be up for breakfast at 7 a.m.
On the return trip, there were mechanical problems with an RTHS bus that was to take them home. This time, however, the wait wasn’t as long. After touching down in Chicago about 9:30 a.m., they were finally on their way to Rantoul by about 2 p.m.