Bum bum bum. Ratatatat. Cleveland’s Saul Sosa, sophomore, and Rylan Nettle, sophomore, were working hard, sweat dripping down their foreheads. The stadium was on their feet. With one last roll of their bellies, the song ended and the arena erupted. The entire stadium of 5,000 fans and parents were on their feet as all three judges raised “10” scorecards. An unprecedented feat, the two made history, being the only belly dancing team to score a full 30 in the Belly Dancing Oregon State Championships history. “It was an amazing feeling, just a huge feeling of excitement. Winning it with Rylan too, was just special because he’s a great person and a great dancer as well,” Sosa said.
“I was ecstatic. It was a surreal experience because we worked so hard for it,” said Nettle.
Winning State didn’t come without it’s challenges, however. “We had intense workouts about two hours everyday while training,” Sosa said. Their workouts consisted of a lot of cardio, abdomen exercises, and A LOT of dancing. However, all their training and hard work was harrowing, and wore down on them.
“Before the season, I had to get a rib removed because of the ordeal I went through last year,” said Nettle,
“Eventually we had to start taking weekends off, to replenish our bodies. It was good for the mind and body both,” Sosa said.
“These boys are some of the hardest workers I’ve ever met, and they put in the work inside and outside the dance room,” Their coach, April Phyool said.
Before high school, the pair has had a distinguished amateur career as well, winning four regional championships in three years. They also won the Clooney Belly Dancing Classic when they were only four years old, competing against opponents in their 20s. “These two have some of the most amazing natural talent out of any dancers I’ve ever met,” said Phyool. “They’re the most talented kids I’ve ever trained.”
The day of the State competition were nervous, but confident. Their opponents were tough, and had beat them before. “This was probably the toughest State competition in years,” said Praync Onyoo, one of the three judges. “But Sosa and Nettle really brought the heat.”
The team’s song was “Despacito” featuring Justin Bieber. The perfect song for them to dance to. “It’s just a song we jammed to on our own with the boys so we decided to use it,” Sosa said.
“It was truly one of the most masterful performances I’ve ever seen,” said Will Larson, sophomore, their close friend, who was sitting in the front row. “They have amazing stomachs.”
After their record-breaking performance, Sosa and Nettle were happy, but they knew they deserved it. “We put in a lot of work, day after day, and I think that’s why we won,” Sosa said. “In this sport you get out what you put in.”