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12-10_steppersStomping, hand-clapping, heart-thumping beats met with wild cheers and applause. That’s the scene at assembly when Milton’s Step Team performs. Founded by Liane Thornhill (I) three years ago, the team now has 20 active members and holds auditions at the start of the school year to keep its numbers manageable. Co-headed by Liane, Emmie Atwood (II) and Lisandra Lao (III), Step Team has become one of the most popular clubs, and most anticipated performances, on campus.

Liane has been stepping formally since sixth grade—informally since she was six years old—and wanted to be involved at Milton. “Because there was no team here at the time, a friend of mine said I should start one,” Liane says. “By fall of my Class III year it was up and running. We held practices during activities period and it evolved into practicing after school and performing at assemblies and in the dance concerts. We have ties with college teams now, like Dartmouth’s team. We connect with them throughout the year.”

Emmie recalls walking into the dance studio two years ago as a “terrified, tone-deaf freshman” determined to join the team. (She had just been inspired by the movieStomp the Yard.) “I didn’t know anyone else on the team, and I wasn’t very coordinated, but I tried it, and I’m so glad I did,” she says. Now one of the team’s captains, Emmie says step has improved her muscle memory, and that she’s better at hearing beats. She also appreciates the new friends she has made.

Many of the original team members graduated last spring, so the girls recruited by posting information to the class conferences, hanging fliers on campus, and performing at assemblies. This year, about 20 students auditioned, and they added nine to the team’s 11 standing members.

“The dynamic is a bit different this year,” says Liane. “We were known as a loud, rowdy group last year. This year we’re a little younger and a little quieter. However, the younger students on the team are finding their voices through Step Team, which is great.”

Lisandra, the youngest of the team’s captains, has been stepping since she was seven years old. Introduced to Milton’s team through leaders in the Transition Program, she now choreographs some of the team’s routines, like the one at the club’s assembly earlier this month. Though she makes sure the team works hard, she likes to keep practices fun.

“One goal I have is for us to begin competing,” says Lisandra. “Nearby colleges send us information about upcoming competitions, and I hope we’re ready for that challenge soon. Schools like Boston College, Tufts and Williams College have really great teams—even going to watch them perform helps inspire us, and shows us what to aim for.”

Liane hopes that after she graduates, Step Team continues to be a place where different people can find something in common. “All kinds of people join Step Team, and they form friendships with people they otherwise might not get to know. That’s a great legacy to leave.”