Jackie Bravo and the Connection of Dance Teams in McMinnville


Bravo performing in the fall.

A shared city is not the only thing Linfield University and McMinnville High School have in common. The deeper connection between the two schools runs through their dance teams and the coaches. 

From 2004 until 2022, coach Gina Regalado was the head coach of the MHS dance team. When it was time for her to step down as coach of the MHS dance team after the 2021-2022 season, the connection to Linfield continued as Jackie Bravo, 21, a senior at Linfield and an MHS alum, took over. Now Bravo is the one juggling double dance duty, as she’s a captain of the Linfield dance team and coaching at MHS. 

For a full-time student, Bravo is very busy; between balancing school, work, and extracurriculars she has learned through trial and error what is best for her and her schedule. In Bravo’s case, this meant she had to stop working at Starbucks, a job she had at the beginning of the school year.

A big part of Bravo’s dance career thus far has been connected to leadership; this experience has played a key role in preparing Bravo for her first coaching job.  

“I did see several leadership qualities in Jackie which I feel led to her being offered the position,” Regalado said. “I have coached Jackie since her freshman year in high school as well as here at Linfield. From the very beginning, I saw determination, commitment and a passion for not just dance, but for helping others. I trust her and know that we have the same goals and values.”

For Bravo, the first few weeks of learning to balance her new role with the rest of her life was a challenge. As an elementary education major, she is currently student teaching, coaching the MHS dance team and attending dance practices at Linfield. There was a point where the majority of her sleep was from naps. Bravo understood that she was trying to do too much, leading her to cut back.

“It was a lot at the beginning, but now I have figured it out better,” Bravo said.

While Bravo has learned a lot about coaching the MHS dance team through first-hand experience, Regalado also gave her some helpful tips at the beginning of the season.

“My advice was to always do what is right for the team and treat them all equally and fairly,” Regalado said. “For many of the students, this will be what gives them a sense of self and purpose. Make every moment count for them, as these will be some of their best memories in high school.”

Having a strong connection with Regalado gave Bravo added support at the beginning of her coaching job. Bravo knew how the team was structured from both dancing for Regalado when she was a coach and watching her coach.

“I did help her in the beginning but only a bit, as Jackie knew exactly how the team was run and continued the same process and only making small changes as what was best for her new team,” Regalado said.

Luckily for Bravo, it is an enjoyable experience, helping to make all of the chaos worth it.

“It’s fun, I love the kids and getting to know them and who they are, and I understand why our coach enjoyed it so much,” Bravo said.

Things are going well at MHS, and Bravo is a good fit for the team, according to people there. The connection Bravo has from her days dancing at MHS has helped prepare her to coach, and she understands what it is like to dance for the school, helping her relate to her athletes better.

“I believe coach Jackie is doing a good job making sure that everyone is comfortable and happy. She has set good boundaries as our coach and our friend,” said Katie Barnes, a sophomore on the MHS dance team. “She is already such an amazing coach and I’m so excited to keep learning from her.”

Regalado feels the team is in good hands, which was important to her. She wanted to ensure the program she dedicated so much time and effort into would succeed even after she was gone. 

“It was easier to step away as I knew Jackie would take the team to the next level and the program would only evolve into a better team but still continue the traditions and stay true to the purpose of the team,” Regalado said.

For the MHS dance team, the big occasion in the fall is Homecoming, which they spent a lot of time getting ready for. Bravo liked how homecoming taught her dancers more than just dance, it helped them with other skills which is key for her since she values making them better people.

“Homecoming shows them how much confidence they have and their strong work ethic pays off, I want them to continue to have confidence,” Bravo said. “I want them to bring it into themselves and their school lives along with the seniors getting ready to navigate college.” 

Dance team performs with the Cheer team during a football halftime show.

While the athletes might not see the lessons they are learning outside of dance, they do know they are learning a lot from Bravo.

“I have learned that sometimes doing a dance you don’t want to will help you learn,” Barnes said. “I’ve also learned that sometimes you get thrown into something and you have to adapt quickly.”

Bravo puts a lot of focus on her athlete’s ability to learn in new environments, she wants them to be prepared for the world after they graduate high school.

“The team has a lot of young dancers learning how to work as a team and build confidence, I want them to be a good team and good people,” Bravo said. 

For her, if the dance goes well it is a bonus – her biggest hope is that her dancers are good people. And even though she’s still getting used to such a packed schedule, Bravo is enjoying her time so far – so much so that she thinks she’s ready to do it all over again.

“I would like to continue coaching,” Bravo said. “As I complain about being busy it is really helpful. Having a set job and coaching would be fun, and I would want to stay with the MHS dance team.”