- Team Info
- Prospective Parent & Dancer Information
- Spirits Road To Nationals
- Winter Finale
- Spirit Traditions
- Spirits Photo Memories
- Dance Team FAQs
- Yard Signs
- 2024-2025 Team Tryouts
Saint Thomas Aquinas Spirit Dance team are FOUR TIME NATIONAL CHAMPION in 2017, 2018, 2020 & 2022 and State Finalist in 2021! At Saint Thomas Aquinas, participation with the Spirits Dance Team is one of the most rewarding high school experiences. In addition to practicing 3 times a week, performing at home football, soccer, and basketball games, competing through the year, and maintaining a 4.0+ team GPA, the team also completes an average of 1,200+ community service hours each year! This website provides information about our program, details on our service in the community, and updates on our journey as a team.
For our current members, this website will be the central place for all of the details of our season. You will also receive weekly update emails from the coaching staff with all the essential information you need for that week.
Coach Yantis is the Head Coach and Creative Director for the Saint Thomas Aquinas Dance Program. This is her 12th year with the program. After falling head over heels in love with dance after her first tap class in elementary school, Tara’s childhood and teen years were spent in the Kansas City area, training in studios and traveling each weekend for competitions and conventions.
We are excited to share Tara was nominated by the KSHSAA and KCA (Kansas Coaches Association) as KSHSAA/NFHS Kansas Coach of the Year, Dance! Tara is like the Miss Kansas in the Miss USA pageant. :) This nomination is now being evaluated against 5 other coaches in our region, one winner will advance as finalists to the NFHS National Coach of the Year and there will be ONE overall national dance coach of the year! Best of luck to our Head Coach, Tara!
A member of the Kansas City Dance Expressions "Express" Power Performing Arts Company, Tara traveled and competed at competitions, including New York City Dance Alliance, West Coast Dance Explosion, Co. Dance, Starlight, and Showbiz, among many others. She was selected to be an NYCDA Showcase Dancer and earned numerous awards with solo and group performances, earning top 10 placements and the team titles of National and World Champion.
Other performance highlights include Carnival Cruiselines, Country Tonight in Branson, MO, pre-show for Theatre in the Park, an event at the Kansas Expocentre for the President of the United States, NCA/NDA Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship Finals in Daytona Beach, FL, and various corporate and brand promotions.
Tara graduated from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, in 2009, earning a bachelor’s degree in Mass Media with emphases in Public Relations and Media Writing/Publishing. She was a four-year member of the Dancing Blues (the game-day dance team) as well as the nationally-ranked “Washburn Elite” Nationals Dance Squad, serving as captain of both teams. Tara was also an arena football cheerleader for 4 years, serving as a captain and choreographer for two years.
Outside of dance, Tara was the Director of Operations for Campus Activities Board, a Resident Assistant, a member of the Sigma Tau Delta and Order of Omega honor societies, a Student Ambassador, and served as Vice President/New Member Coordinator, Judicial Chair and a Recruitment Counselor as a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. She is now an alumni advisor for Zeta Tau Alpha.
Each summer, Tara travels around the country for the National Dance Alliance (NDA), working with high school and collegiate dance teams and coaches. After being named the National Rookie Instructor of the Year in 2008, Tara was promoted to Head Instructor in 2009 and just completed her 14th season with the company. Tara was the national delegate for NDA, traveling to London, England, for the London New Year’s Day Parade, facilitating performances by 1,600+ performers from across the United States. The parade was viewed by an estimated 300 million people worldwide. She also spent 7 years in studio settings, teaching students from pre-K to college in both recreational and competitive levels. Tara is an in-demand adjudicator, judging at the high school, regional and collegiate levels, and a motivational speaker and consultant for numerous dance programs, most recently speaking at the Nebraska Coaches Association Conference and Varsity Dance Coaches National Conference. She was recently recognized as the inaugural recipient of the NCA/NDA "The Work is Worth It" award, recognizing the top NDA Head Instructor nationally, demonstrating leadership and contributions to both cheerleading and dance industries. She was also named the national NDA "Excellence in Leadership" recipient in 2015. Tara is also a guest Master Class instructor for Innovative Choreography.
Outside of dance team, Tara works full-time in advertising and is a founding member of the Kansas State Dance Team Coaches Association. She is also a member of the NCDA, KCA and the co-chair of the Spirit Advisory Committee to the KSHSAA. Coach Tara can be contacted via email at: TSchroeder@STASaints.net
Callie (Henning) DaVila ~ Assistant Coach
Callie is a 2013 graduate of Saint Thomas Aquinas and was a 4-year dance team member and Captain her senior year. She trained at Le Dance studio and graduated from Iowa State University where she was a 4-year dance team member and National Collegiate Champion.
During her college career, she was an instructor for the National Dance Alliance (NDA), a coach at TKO All-Star, and a Chiefs Cheerleader for several seasons. Callie has worked with the Spirits over the last few years to help prepare for Nationals before joining the coaching staff - she knows what it takes to make routines championship-ready. She has a passion for teaching, the high school dance world and the game day experience.
We are so thankful Callie is returning again this season! Coach Callie can be contacted via email at: STASpiritsDance@gmail.com
Kitty Griffith ~ Assistant Coach
Coach Kitty is in her 8th year coaching and her 4th year with high school! Kitty's passion is encouraging self-respect, self-expression and growing the physical and mental strength of the students she works with through dance.
Before coaching, Kitty was a Kansas City Chiefs Cheerleader for two seasons and a youth cheer coach. As a Mill Valley High School graduate, she also participated as a member of their dance team for four years. After high school, Kitty danced under Amy Sellers at Johnson County Community College for two years. Later, she was a part of the University of Kansas Unity Hip Hop crew and a cheerleader/dancer for the Missouri Comets for a season.
When she’s not coaching, she spends her free time with her husband and two baby girls, Vera and Nova!
Coach Kitty can be contacted via email at: STASpiritsDance@gmail.com
Prospective Parents and Dancers,
Thank you for inquiring about our program and stopping by our website! We invite you to get to know a bit more about our program by exploring the information provided on the tabs to your right.
You will find a lot of information and I would like to direct you to the following sections with links located on the right hand side of the site:
- Calendar of Events
- Coaching Staff ~ learn more about the coaches who lead our program
- Spirit Memories & Performance Videos
- 2024-2025 Tryout Information ~ Check out the information on the site!
- FAQs ~ get the answers to all those questions you might have!
The Saint Thomas Aquinas Dance Program is comprised of talented and dedicated dancers selected through a tryout process each spring. We perform at home soccer, football and basketball games throughout the school year as well as various community events and competitions. Our season is truly year-round. As such, dance team must be considered the dancer’s extra curricular priority. With that said, 100% of our team members are involved in numerous enriching activities and clubs in addition to dance team including school musicals, student council, outside studio dance companies and many, many more. We believe involvement in these activities is critical to each dancer’s overall development, so long as it doesn’t create a burden on their studies. Academics are a top priority for our program. Finding a healthy balance between academics and extracurricular activities is a top priority for each dancer and the coaching staff is committed to helping each dancer reach their highest potential in all areas of their high school experience.
The Spirits are dedicated to performing at the highest level each time we take the field or the floor, bringing entertaining, challenging routines for our crowds to enjoy. The long tradition of excellence, set by teams that have come before us, motivates us to "practice hard, dance harder" throughout our season, working as one TEAM. Some of our top priorities include supporting our fantastic athletic teams and exhibiting what it means to be a "Spirit" on and off the field.
However, being a Spirit is so much more than dancing on the sidelines. In addition to performances and competitions, Spirits complete numerous hours of community service each year, averaging 1,200+ hours per season! We also find time to bond as a team through fun activities several times each semester. Please follow our social media accounts for highlights! @sta_dance on Instagram and @aquinasdance on Twitter.
One of the key ingredients to our program's legacy of excellence are the incredibly dedicated parents that invest their time and energy into our dance program. Parent volunteers coordinate numerous activities for our dancers and provide support in many ways both behind the scenes and cheering from the stands. We simply could not do what we do without them!
If you have any questions at all about our program, please don’t hesitate to let us know. And, if you’re ever at a game or event, please introduce yourself. We look forward to hearing from you!
Head Dance Team Coach
The Varsity Spirits wrapped up a successful season in Denton, Texas at the American Dance/Drill Team Nationals! It was a fun and successful weekend with team-building events, including an outing to the AT&T stadium and time to showcase their dances from the season on the big University of Northern Texas stage.
This hard-working team left with some top honors: Their Game Day routine not only took First Place but received the coveted WOW Factor Award, which is only given to 10 of the 500 entries! Their Lyrical performance took 2nd Place, and they earned 5th Place Overall for Small Teams. We must also highlight their achievement as Academic National Champions- again!!!
Congrats 2022-2023 Varsity Dance Team! We are so happy for you!
The Spirit Storm rolled through Saint Thomas Aquinas on February 25 with the JV and Varsity's Winter Finale! And what a storm it was! The dancers showcased their hard work and dedication from the year to a packed crowd cheering them on. Highlights included class dances, team dances, individual dances and the annual Senior Dad & Daughter dance. Next stop, Nationals! Well done, Spirits!
S.O.A.R. ~ Spirits on a Rampage is our battle cry. It is the conclusion of our team chant, that you’ll hear echoing a few minutes before each of our performance. It also represents our mission: To relentlessly pursue excellence on and off the field, and to make a positive and meaningful impact on our classmates, neighbors and future Spirits.
S&S ~ ‘Sparkle and Shine’ is our team motto. As a team, we strive to excellence in all areas. Whether it is on the football field or the basketball court, the classroom or the commons before school, Spirits truly ‘sparkle and shine’ in any setting, seeking to be their best at all times.
Stars ~ The star is our trademark symbol. A tradition started many years ago, the Spirits wear a gold star sticker or gem near the left eye for every performance. Sometimes this is paired with the Aquinas shield under the right eye.
Big Spirit/Little Spirit ~ Within each team, rookies are paired with veterans for mentoring throughout the season.
Families ~ There are six dance team ‘families’ within our program, which are comprised of dancers from each grade. The purpose of dance team families is to further promote mentoring opportunities for our veterans and resources for our younger dancers.
Team Prayer ~ Coming together as a team in prayer is an essential part of our preparation. We close each practice and enter each performance with student-led prayer.
Weekly Mass ~ We attend mass as a team on a weekly basis.
Team dinners ~ The Varsity squad gathers together before each home football game.
Football Tailgate ~ One time each season, we come together as a program and host a family tailgate before a home football game.
All the hard work and practices are worth it! The Spirits' dedication towards dance and Aquinas fans shows in their Game Day Performances, Pep Rallies, Competitions & Community Service Hours. Hours of dance practice go into their performances. They help bring the SPIRIT to all the events they are involved in!
A shout-out to our amazing Seniors as they complete their years on the Spirits dance team. Thanks for all the fun, dedication, support and leadership! We will miss you next year!
A big thank you to our school photographer, Michelle Grees, who goes above and beyond to capture these wonderful moments for the Saint Thomas Aquinas community!
The following are provided to assist you in learning more about the Saint Thomas Aquinas Spirits Dance Team. If you don't find the answer to your question, please contact Head Coach Tara Yantis at firstname.lastname@example.org
What are tryouts like?
Tryouts for our program take place in April and typically last three days. Dancers are required to audition each year. Dancers will be required to learn and perform a team dance (incorporates jazz, pom, kick, and hip hop), a kick combination, and across-the-floor technique progressions. Dancers are also required to complete a tryout application and will be asked to answer an interview question during the tryout process. The judging panel is comprised of dance professionals from a variety of backgrounds.
How should I prepare for tryouts?
While previous dance experience is not a requirement to audition for our program, most prospective dancers take studio class in preparation for our spring tryouts. Ballet, leaps/turns, hip hop and dance team prep classes are recommended for those dancers who are not already a part of a competitive studio program. We also host free prep classes each Spring in the month leading up to auditions.
Can I be involved in studio dance AND high school dance team?
Yes! Many of our dancers participate in outside studio dance at both competitive and recreational levels. These commitments should be carefully considered and balanced by each family. While there are typically some schedule conflicts between studio dance and high school dance team, Coaches make every effort to accommodate schedules with the intent of reducing stress on each dancer.
What are practices like and how often does the team practice?
We hold a regular weekly practice schedule that varies by team. Varsity practices three times a week. These practices incorporate a combination of conditioning, warm up, technique, team building, choreography instruction and cleaning. Additional practices/rehearsals are scheduled on an as-needed basis.
2022-2023 Regular Season Practice Schedule
Tuesdays 6:00-7:30am Varsity + JV
Thursdays 6:00-7:30am Varsity every week + JV every other week
Fridays 3:30-5:30pm Varsity + JV
All practices are mandatory. Please refer to the Attendance Policy for communication of any unavoidable absences.
What happens if I need to miss a practice?
Dancers who have a conflict with a practice or performance are required to send an absence request to the coach via email with as much advanced notice as possible. Please refer to the Attendance Policy for our communication process. Absences or tardiness to practices and performances earn ‘strikes’. Dancers are responsible to learn choreography and cleaning points missed before the next practice. Dancers who miss the last practice before a game performance, or the week of practices before competition or Winter Finale, will not be eligible to perform under most circumstances – this will be managed at the discretion of the coach.
Is there a Spring Show?
Our performance season concludes each year with our annual Winter Finale showcase. Typically at the end of February, this show is comprised of our award-winning routines from the year. We invite our community, family and friends to enjoy this evening of entertainment!
How much does it cost?
Costs are outlined for parents at our pre-tryout and season kick off meetings. Costs vary by tenure with the program as we make every effort to consolidate costs each year and select items that can be used for more than one season.
Does the dance team compete?
Yes! In addition to our performances throughout the year, we participate in several dance team contests per season.
CELEBRATE BEING A SAINT!
STA Spirits Dance Team is pleased to offer STA Yard Signs and Rider where you can honor your student with an STA sign personalizing their activities and involvement at STA!
To personalize the sign, up to 4 Riders can be added to the sign. Popular choices include: Football, Band, Soccer, Cheerleading, Choir, Volleyball, Baseball, Cross Country, Golf, Tennis, Yearbook, Newspaper, Basketball, Softball, STUCO, Swimming, Dance Team or your Student’s Name or Class Year. Celebrate being a state champ with a State Champs rider or being a graduate from STA with an Alumni rider.
STA Yard Signs are 21” x 21” and are made of 6mm,
white, all-weather material mounted on 4’ posts.
The Yard Sign is $55
Each rider is $25 each
Click here to purchase Yard Signs!
Or email Fran Ryan at email@example.com and indicate your selection of a sign and/or choice of personalized rider(s) AND your contact information (name, phone #, email address).
Once your order is ready, you will be contacted. Payment is due at pickup with checks payable to STA Dance Team.
If you have any questions, please contact Fran Ryan at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The STA Spirits thank you for your support!
2024-2025 Team Tryouts: March 19-22, 2024
- Friday, March 1 Tryout applications released (we distribute this through social media, on our website, and to anyone who has signed up for our prospects email list)
- Tuesday, March 5 | 6-7am | (Optional) Tryout Prep Clinic $5 | Commons - no scoring, evaluation or bonus points for attending
- Tuesday, March 12 | 6-7am | (Optional) Tryout Prep Clinic $5 | Commons - no scoring, evaluation or bonus points for attending
- Friday, March 15 Tryout application due (by midnight)
- Tuesday, March 19 | 5-9pm | Tryout Clinic #1 | Main Gym
- Wednesday, March 20 | 5-9pm | Tryout Clinic #2 | Main Gym
- Thursday, March 21 | 5-9pm | Tryout Review + Mock Tryout | Main Gym
- Friday, March 22 | 5pm start time | Formal Tryouts for the 2023-2024 team | Main Gym
- Saturday, March 23 Team results announced no later than 10am (we'll have to talk about how to push this quickly with the approval process)
- Fight Song (those that attend the pre-tryout clinics actual get the bonus opportunity to learn this early)
- Sideline + Chant
- Game-Day Style Performance Routine (likely around 8 8counts/1min)
- Technical progressions including leaps, turns, kicks and jumps
- Optional bonus skill
- We do not take a certain or predetermined number of dancers. The number of graduating seniors does not equate to an "open number of spots" on the team or on Varsity, specifically
- Freshmen-Seniors are eligible to make all team levels (including Freshmen on Varsity and Seniors on JV). Dancers will indicate the teams they would like to be considered for on their tryout application and should consider this question carefully.
- Score sheet structure is shared in complete transparency ahead of tryouts
- Judges are selected based on professional qualifications and lack of conflict of interest
- Attire for clinics is at dancers' preference; Attire for the actual tryout is all black w/ any color jazz or style of jazz shoes.
- Hair and make up is up to the dancer's personal comfort. Hair should be secured out of the face.
- We send out videos and music each night after tryouts for practice purposes but NOT before.
- If dancers have major, unavoidable and once-in-a-lifetime conflicts with any part of tryouts (i.e. Confirmation), they should contact Head Coach Tara Yantis asap to coordinate alternative options.
Contact Head Coach Tara Yantis with any questions. email@example.com 913-205-9785