In the final moments of the Bethpage Golden Girls’ dance routine Sunday, the spotlight was on junior Anna Lisa. Every other member of Bethpage High School’s varsity kickline team had stopped dancing, placed a hand over their hearts and turned to face Lisa, who was smiling as she held up a black cloth with the word “Mom” written on it.
The prop was meant to honor Lisa’s mother, Diane Lisa, who died in May from lung cancer. But throughout the energetic dance routine, each girl took turns -- in between touch touches and high kicks -- to hold up the name of a loved one who fought cancer.
“The people you’re dancing for, you feel almost like they’re in the room with you, watching,” said Lisa, 16, of Bethpage. “It’s very special.”
Coach Jeanne Novelli said she had been kicking around the idea of choreographing a cancer-themed routine for years. She lost her father, Toby Novelli, to cancer in August 2005.
Before deciding to go through with it this season, she pulled Lisa aside to make sure she’d be up for the task.
“I wasn’t hesitant at all,” Lisa said. “It’s a great way to not only honor my mom, but everyone who has been affected.”
Going into Sunday’s Long Island Kickline Association competition at Uniondale High School, Novelli said she knew the routine probably wouldn’t win, because the choreography, which combines elements of pom, jazz, kick and hip-hop -- defies some of LIKA’s rules.
For instance, pom-poms are not permitted in “dance” routines, Novelli said, but the Golden Girls use them throughout. At one point, they form two pink breast cancer awareness ribbons out of them. Violations like this lead to automatic point deductions from the judges.
Novelli and her girls didn’t mind their third place finish, though.
“For us, this year and this routine specifically is not about a trophy,” Novelli said. “We’re dancing for people who are still here and for those we lost, in honor of the fight they put up.”
Although the routine doesn’t score high at local competitions, Novelli said her team will continue to perform it. It’s good practice for nationals, which takes place in March at Universal Studios in Orlando. At that competition, there is a category for routines like this, so the girls won’t be penalized.
Novelli said she’s also been approached by audience members who have been moved by the routine, which is set to upbeat music including a remixed version of “I’ll Stand By You” and “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child.
“There’s hope in it,” Lisa added.
While fighting back tears, she recalled her mother’s battle with cancer and explained why it was so important for her to smile when she danced in honor of her and others who fought the disease.
“Even though they were sick, they were so, so strong, and we have to be even stronger, so we can make it really special for them. They really deserve it.”