Chieftain Stars standout to dance abroad in Paris
As Brittany Watson stepped off the basketball court after halftime, her friends congratulated her on what they thought was a remarkable dance.
Watson was crying. Her friends interpreted the tears to be tears of happiness.
They weren't. Watson was simply being her own worst critic -- a perfectionist.
"Everyone told me I did so well, but I didn't think so," the senior Chieftain Stars dancer said of her performance during a halftime show last basketball season. "I didn't like the way I performed. It was like a minute dance. I could have done better."
If that sounds surprising, consider how serious Watson is about dancing. The THS senior is a two-time all-star at the Universal Dance Association camp, meaning she's been an elite dancer at the El Dorado camp for two straight years.
As a result of her all-star status, Watson will have the opportunity to visit Paris as part of the USA 2008 Varsity Spirit Tour. The trip is from Dec. 26 to Jan. 2.
Watson, along with her parents, Jeff and Barbara, are trying to raise $3,100 for her to visit. The family has raised a considerable amount already. Even if they come up short, the family will pay the rest to give Watson the coveted opportunity.
Watson has never been to France. Actually, she's never been out of the country.
"We'd learn our dance the third-to-last day and that'd be our one and only rehearsal," Watson said of the opportunity in France. "The next day, we'll perform (in Chantilly, France). Then, on New Year's Day, we'll perform in the parade right in front of the Eiffel Tower."
The opportunity came after years of dedication. Watson has danced since age 3. For the past three years, the Chieftain Stars have practiced before school starts -- well before school starts.
"It's (been) 5:45 every morning for three years now," Watson said. "I work after school, so I'm always tired."
Watson's favorite style of dance? Hip-hop, because it allows her to get more into the music and have her own rhythm.
Leaps are Watson's favorite maneuver on the dance floor. Her jumps and turns are constantly improving.
"What I've noticed most is she's very strong with her technique," THS Chieftain Stars dance coach Pam Lamb said. "She's just right on. And she's very personable and fun to be around, too. She has a good attitude."
Don't try to tell Watson dancing isn't a sport. She'll have arguments prepared on the spot.
"It's just like any other sport," Watson said. "I don't think we're any different than any other athlete. We're athletes ourselves. It's really hard work, but you have to have good rhythm, a good beat, know how to count and a good memory."
Watson also has beyond-her-years choreography skills. She came up with the dance to Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" that the Chieftain Stars performed at the Leavenworth County Fair.
After this year, Watson said she might try to make the Kansas University dance team. If not, she may attend Johnson County Community College.
Watson said she's thought about opening a dance shop after college, but her ideal job might have nothing to do with dancing. She's taken a keen interest in dental hygiene.
"Ever since I got my teeth done a couple years ago, I just think it was really cool how they changed my mouth so differently," Watson said.