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En_Tense dancing
Weston Ranch High dance group hopes to inspire others
The En_Tense Hip Hop dance group, made up of Weston Ranch High School students, has won several awards at various competitions in the San Joaquin Valley and the Bay Area. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

The dancing is intense, and the dancers are competitive.

But it’s all done for fun, and hopefully to inspire others.

That’s the philosophy behind the group called En_Tense, one of the clubs on campus at Weston Ranch High School.

It’s a dance club whose main style is the currently popular hip-hop, but they do other things as well, including break dancing.

Started by a small group of students in 2008, most of whom have gone on to college after graduation, the campus dance club has literally gone places in the last three years. They have been in a number of competitions in the area as well as in San Jose, the San Francisco Bay Area,  Sacramento and the University of the Pacific, and have shown their mettle by bringing home some awards.

Their dance skills and professionalism have caught the eye of a number of organizations and groups as well, earning them invitations to perform. On Saturday at The Reserves Clubhouse at Spanos Park in Stockton, the group was the featured performer during the graduation/18th birthday celebration of the members’ friend, Stephanie Diaz. Next on their schedule of appearances will be an evening performance on Aug. 13 during the annual Barrio Fiesta at the Filipino Center in downtown Stockton.

Entering competitions keeps them busy during the year and gives them good reason to practice, improve their skills as well as hone their choreography and dance moves.

Membership to En_Tense is open to all Weston Ranch High School students but they have to go through an audition. The group usually has between seven and 20 members at a time. And as members graduate, they are replaced by other students interested in joining the group. Some who decide to go to San Joaquin Delta College before going on to the university usually assist the group as a choreographer. Such is the case with Jose Aspiras who is currently attending Delta and is the group’s present director, and Christian Ordonez.

The student dancers who currently make up En_Tense are sisters Valerie and Vanessa Nisperos, Mason McCoy, Samantha Valenzuela, Maegan Rivera, Christian Ordonez and Mary Castro. Vanessa Nisperos, who choreographed the Royal Court Dance for Stephanie’s birthday, has just graduated in June and will be studying nursing at California State University, San Jose. Her sister Valerie will be a senior in the fall.

And while they are a high school campus group, they get together to practice their dance at members’ homes since, as Vanessa Nisperos puts it, “we don’t have a studio.”

“We are a garage team,” was the laughing rejoinder from fellow choreographer Ordonez, adding none of them had any formal dance classes.

“We’re all self-taught,” he said.

They are also self-supporting in terms of expenses for their costumes and travel when they go on the road for competitions and performances.

Vanessa Nisperos laughed as she said about their financial sources, “Either we get a job or we beg our parents for money.”

She added, “We just like to show people what we love to do and hopefully inspire others.”