Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant

AHA Dance Team Captures Second Consecutive National Title  


Demarest, NJ: The powerhouse Academy of the Holy Angels Varsity Dance Team has earned its second consecutive National Dance Team Championship in small varsity hip hop, further solidifying its reputation. 

The varsity team, coached by Jenny Sweet, includes Samantha Kim of Demarest, Krystyna Vafiadis of Englewood, Amanda Hernandez of Northvale, Danielle Gibney of Closter, Isabella Cho of Demarest, Kaitlyn Lack of Oradell, Natalie Quinn of Dumont, Sahar Ali-Jenkins of Teaneck, Madelyn Menapace of Hawthorne, Ciara Wacker of Emerson, Isabella Cardamone of Glen Rock, Sophia Costa of Oradell, and Shannon Dobres of Glen Ridge.

Hundreds of teams from every corner of the nation participated in the 2017 National Dance Team Championship, which was held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.  The competition is administered by the Universal Dance Association, and is endorsed by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

The varsity teams are categorized as small, medium, or large based on the number of dancers on each squad. Teams in each category then show off their best moves in kick, jazz, pom, and hip hop.

Now that the AHA team has made a name for itself on the national stage, those outside the group’s inner circle may not realize that the squad once struggled to find a space where its members could train.

Coach Sweet pointed out that the dancers must find a balance between academics and athletics. She noted that each dancer makes a tremendous physical and mental commitment to the team.

“There is a misconception as to exactly how demanding it is to achieve the level of success these dancers have achieved in such a short time,” Sweet said.

One of the challenges the team experienced this year involved late season injuries that kept two dancers on the sidelines during the national competition.  

“We work toward excellence every year,” Sweet added.  “We use amazing choreographers and, through the choreography, challenge the dancers to push themselves.  We practice and train hard.  We focus on the goal of giving everything we have, ‘leaving it all on the floor’ every time.”

The team’s dedication and success have made AHA not just the team to watch, but the team to beat, Sweet added.

The junior varsity team is coached by Kristen Cebulski (AHA Class of ’09). JV dancers include Alexandra McCartha of Teaneck, Odette Castillo of Fair Lawn, Melina Tidwell Torres of North Arlington, Alexa Kim of Norwood, Emily Yang of Old Tappan, Julia Creange of Wyckoff, Alexandria Arteaga of Wyckoff, Kristen Chung of Wyckoff, Daniella Hernandez of Northvale, Maya Aguiling of Tappan (NY), Daniella Macri of Haworth, Julianna Pomarico of Hasbrouck Heights, Courtney Hairston of Englewood, and Nicole Barbaro of Fort Lee.

Alyssa Aponte, a member of the AHA Class of ’11 and former dance team member, is assistant to both the varsity and junior varsity teams.

Both AHA teams have both performed at a New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden, and will dance at a New Jersey Devils game at the Prudential Center in March. The varsity team has also performed at a Brooklyn Nets game. The dancers regularly share their talents at AHA events and at community gatherings such as Demarest Day and the Closter Spring Fling.

“The path to this year’s National Dance Team Championship was nothing short of amazing,” Sweet summarized.  “Our team motto is: ‘If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.’”


Since 1879, thousands of women have passed through the portals of Academy of the Holy Angels high school, the oldest private girls’ school in New Jersey. 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. Our goal is to provide each girl 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 giving service to others.

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