At the first note, the black-and-white blur springs to life.

Faces are furrowed in concentration as the dancers move in all dimensions in time with the music.

Some step forward, others side to side. Others climb atop a large, patterned prop.

They move in practiced unison, feet moving delicately, but deliberately, through a pattern of intricate steps.

It’s a series of steps the members of the local Hart Dance Team have gone through dozens, probably hundreds of times in recent months.

It is performances such as these that took them from seemingly endless rehearsal sessions to one of the brightest stages of all — Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

It was there that those watching the television competition show “America’s Got Talent” realized that the Santa Clarita Valley has its share of talent, too.

“It was surprising, first of all,” said team coach Katherine Leist when asked her reaction to hearing that the team had been invited to compete on the show. “It was just a really cool moment to know that we could succeed to another level.”

While the stage lights in New York may have been a little brighter, success is nothing new to the dance team.

The team performs throughout the year, not only at school functions but in competitions as well.

It was in the latest competition season that the dance team unveiled its performance piece — an intricate flurry of movement around, inside, in front of and on top of a sizable prop.

The performance took the dance team all the way to nationals, where they won top honors.

“To work with this group of girls, it’s an honor,” Leist said. “And it makes me proud to see them succeed.”

But the team’s journey would not end with competition season. Soon Leist received word the team had been invited to compete on the show.

Understandably, the news was greeted with excitement by members of the team, as well as their most devoted fans.

“I think our parents might have been more excited than we were when they found out we were going to New York City,” said dance team member Hannah Ritchie. “They love all of us so much and accomplishing something so big made them all so proud.”

Though the team wowed those watching, Hart dance was eventually eliminated from the show.

But all those who participated know how special the experience was.

“Being part of ‘America’s Got Talent’ with my teammates this year was an incredible way to end my experience at Hart High School,” said Ritchie, who graduated this past year.

Dance team member Amanda Jette said the experience of performing on the big stage at Radio City Music Hall was “once-in-a-lifetime.”

“We definitely didn’t feel the pressure like we have to win, we have to do this,” she said. “It was just great to perform at Radio City Music Hall.”

Though their experiences in New York City were unforgettable, members of the team know now that their national success has raised the bar for what is expected of them.

“Everyone’s like, ‘There’s Hart. They were on ‘America’s Got Talent.’ We’ve got to step it up,’” said dance team member Savannah Sweet.

Leist also acknowledges that the stakes have been raised.

“The hard part is going to be to top what we’ve done,” Leist said. “I’ve always had high expectations but I feel like now they’re getting even higher and to meet those expectations is going to be really hard. So we’re going to have to work extra hard this year to reach those goals and to be better than we’ve been.”

But it’s a challenge team members embrace, and one they know they’re not alone in facing. The bond between teammates is what helped them get as far as they did, and it’s what they say will carry them to more success in the future.

“We all get along really well,” Leist said. “For me, I’m just so proud to be a part of a team like this.”
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