By Anna Grace Moore 

Photos by Varsity Spirit & Universal Dance Association

On Saturday, Feb. 4 at the Universal Dance Association (UDA) National Dance Team Championship, the Mountain Brook High School Dorians took home the gold in the “large varsity high kick” division and eighth place in the “gameday” division. Although the Dorians have participated in UDA for decades with multiple “top-ten” finishes, the team’s first-place win was the first in the team’s 23-year-history.

“What made that moment of winning so magical, besides the joy of a national championship, was that these girls were genuinely shocked,” Kari Kampakis, mother of Dorian, Marie Claire Kampakis, says. “They showed great humility and grace as they surpassed their wildest expectations.”

According to the Mountain Brook Schools article, “Dorians Win High Kick National Championship,” the UDA National Dance Team Championship draws more than 6,000 students, who compete among hundreds of teams every year–403 teams to be exact in 2024. This year, 981 coaches led these teams who represented 35 different states.

What is even more special about this win is that a former Dorian coached the team to victory. Anna Scofield, a 2009 alumna of Mountain Brook High School, is now the head coach of Mountain Brook High School’s dance team.

After graduating from Mountain Brook, Anna attended the University of Alabama, majoring in human development and family studies. She started her career teaching special needs students, which led her to start teaching at Mountain Brook Junior High (MBJH) in 2016.

Anna’s former coach, Melissa Tuck–who was then teaching and coaching dance at MBJH–was looking to retire and wanted someone with passion to take over coaching the seventh grade dance team. Anna accepted the call to action, which she says was one of the best decisions of her life.

“Dance has been in my blood since my sister was on the Dorians, and it’s just been a full-circle dream,” Anna says. “It’s just been an honor to go back to the program that’s raised me. I owe a lot to my previous coach, Melissa Tuck, and my sponsor, Heather Fitch, for getting me there.”

After welcoming her now 2-year-old into the world, Anna took a step back from teaching but wanted to continue her passion for dance. She was later recruited to coach at MBHS, where several of the Dorians on this year’s winning team were actually some of her first dancers at MBJH.

Ann-Massey Bowman, who was one of Anna’s dancers at MBJH and is now one of the Dorians’ co-captains, says she was a very shy and reserved person before dancing under Anna’s leadership.

“She continually pushed us to dance outside of our box and find a real passion behind what we were doing,” Ann-Massey says. “Learning from her, I carried this new sense of confidence with me.”

Confidence is a key factor in the Dorians’ success, Anna believes. While at UDA Nationals, Anna made some quick changes before the team went on to perform, and amazingly, the dancers hit every note, kicking their way to victory.

Several of the Dorians’ mothers–the ever-supportive dance moms–sing Anna’s praises as they have seen their own daughters blossom not just as dancers, but also as young, independent women through her coaching.

“As I watched Anna and the other seniors move up through the program, I could see how they gained more confidence, more maturity in handling challenges and were able to mentor some of the younger girls,” Maria Prelipcean, mother of Dorian, Anna Prelipcean, says.

Several of the dancers joke that after placing fourth at the 2023 UDA National Dance Championship, their dance vendetta was born. Eva and Ann-Massey, who were both co-captains this year, say what changed for the team started with adopting a winning mentality.

Together, they and Dorians’ captain Anna Prelipcean, focused on reshaping their teammates’ mindsets by reminding them not only of their passion, but also of their purpose as dancers. Passion is a dancer’s catalyst to ignite within her a love for dance, which is rekindled each time she performs.

A dancer’s purpose, however, is more meaningful. Dancers are often “actors first” and dancers second because dance conveys a story–often what the heart so longingly wishes to express what words sometimes cannot.

“When I get scared or question my abilities before competing, dance has taught me to always think of doing it for your teammate beside you, and this turns my nerves into excitement,” Ann-Massey says of competing at nationals.

With both a reignited passion and a newfound purpose, the Dorians returned to UDA Nationals on a comeback kick, wowing the audiences with their artistic execution. While their flawless performance proved worthy of a win, the dancers say competing together–working as a team–provided the most joy on that special day.

“When we won, it was pure relief to know that everything we did paid off,” Eva says. “Knowing that everyone put their hearts into our routine and did it to the best of their ability is something I will forever be grateful for as a co-captain.”

Looking forward, Anna says she hopes the winning team’s camaraderie–among the dancers’ love of their craft–outlives their time together in high school. While performing and competing is  always fun, Anna says winning does not mean much without friends to cherish it with.

The most beautiful performances are always the ones in which dancers evoke such emotion from the audience, conveying a story with every turn. Perhaps the most beautiful dancers are those who not only share a love of performing, but also a love for each other, thanks to the fellowship dance fosters.

Fostering a Love of Dance

How have you seen dance challenge the Dorians to become a better version of themselves?

“Performing under pressure will benefit them and prepare them for challenges ahead as they move to the next phase of life.”

-Paige Andrews, mother of Dorian, Eva Andrews

What was your reaction to the Dorians winning first place at UDA Nationals?

“It was an adrenaline rush we’ll never forget and God’s goodness on display. The Dorians work so hard, and more importantly, they adore each other. They have a special camaraderie that shows in the way they dance together, and I believe that chemistry played a huge role in helping them make Mountain Brook history.”

-Kari Kampakis, mother of Dorian, Marie Claire Kampakis 

How have you grown as a dancer under Coach Scofield’s leadership?

“Mrs. Scofield has helped our team grow in tremendous ways! Throughout this year, she pushed us both mentally and physically, which led to us winning first place. Mrs. Scofield was consistent with our workouts and always made sure our mind was set on our end goal, which was nationals. Even though doing well in nationals was our highest priority this year, she also made sure that no matter what happens, she cares about us, and doing well for our team was more important than any title we would receive.”

-Eva Andrews, Dorians’ co-captain