Editorial By Bruce Karnick [email protected] I’m a dance dad, my daughter danced for Henry Sibley’s High School Dance Team from seventh grade on. Before that, she danced at Jan’s School of …
Editorial By Bruce Karnick
I’m a dance dad, my daughter danced for Henry Sibley’s High School Dance Team from seventh grade on. Before that, she danced at Jan’s School of Dance, she danced in our kitchen, our living room, her bedroom, the basement, the yard, the beach, the river. You name it, she’s probably danced there. She was good at it too, really good and she loved dancing. As a family, we loved watching her dance.
Being on a competitive dance team is tough. It is a lot of hard work that requires dedication, commitment, patience, a solid support system, endurance, flexibility, rhythm, teamwork, trust, perseverance, intestinal fortitude, and a whole litany of other things that would make this story take forever to get through. Here’s the reality check though, other sports take those things too and know what else takes those things? Life. Being on a competitive dance team is much like being on a football team, a hockey team, in marching band, choir, theater, basketball, or any other team. And just like other sports, dance team teaches kids life lessons.
According to a Star Tribune article, High School Dance Team is the second most popular high school sport in the state of Minnesota based on participation numbers. Yes, second most popular, behind football. Yes, dance team has more participants statewide than hockey does and we are the state of hockey. A visit to the state tournament for dance and you will see how. Many teams have over 30 girls on the Varsity roster and even more on JV and B-Squad. That means dance teams have as many as 100 members or more from seventh grade on up.
Being a dance dad is different, you have no idea what to expect going into this kind of competition. Up to this point in your daughters ‘dance career’ you have only seen the cute little fluffy dresses and the kids trying to tap as 4-year-olds, then you see the progression to the more complicated moves, but they are still wearing the cute little fluffy dresses. Then you see the 10+ year old version of your daughter starts to wear the makeup and dance leotards and perform interpretive dances that look beautiful. None of this prepares you for dance team competitions. Sure, the studios like JSOD and Just 4 Kix do competitions, but a high school dance competition is just, well, different.
High school dance competitions are raucous and full of energy, they are controlled chaos. Girls constantly screaming for their friends, crowds constantly cheering for their dancers, concessions and gift items being sold all over the place. It is loud, and fun, but it is chaos.
They move you to tears in ways you never saw coming. Be it pride, the amazing athleticism, difficult formations with even more difficult moves or a beautiful, moving performance. All these things and more happen in three minutes on a gymnasium floor, back-to-back, in rapid fire succession. In the matter of an hour, you could see 10-12 different teams perform their routine. 20-40 girls working together to tell a story in three minutes, and it is awesome to watch. The teams are judged on a number of criteria that even a seasoned observer cannot fully explain, but that does not make the experience of watching any less enjoyable.
With dance team being so popular, why has Hastings never had an official high school dance team? We have so many amazing dancers in town and have had a plethora of dance schools, what has been the issue?
The easy answer: No one has stepped up to fully organize it. Until now. Sure, there has been talk about doing it, people have even asked the questions of how to start one. A local instructor even put some work into setting up some of the foundations for one, but then COVID hit.
Let’s be clear on one thing, this journey is in its infancy, a delicate time where it is make or break for the success of the program. It is not an official high school team yet. That will take a little time, but you can ensure it becomes one by encouraging your daughters or granddaughters to participate. You can help it be successful by talking positively about the sport to your sons and daughters and by cheering them on when you see them perform at a local event, and you can always donate funds to help. All of this will help the program grow and ultimately become a school sanctioned sport for Hastings.
How did Hastings Dance Team Club start? According to co-founder Shonna Nadeau, it started with a question.
“Officially it was started with Robin Siebenaller contacting the athletic director at Hastings High School, Trent Hanson. She approached him with the idea, you know, ‘are we able to do this?’ And that was approved, and we were given the go ahead,” explained Nadeau Siebenaller and Nadeau are both local business owners, local dance studio moms, and have been friends for quite some time. Siebenaller approached Nadeau with the idea in hopes that the two of them could team up and build a competitive dance program for the high school. Once they received the go ahead from Hanson, they hit the ground running.
“We were then given the opportunity that we could form a club. This is the same thing that trap does in Hastings. So, trap operates as a club, kind of under the umbrella of the school. And so that’s what Hastings Dance Team Club was given as well,” added Nadeau.
Being a school club team means they now have the ability to perform at school events such as pep rallies or at the intermissions of sporting events like a football or basketball halftime. But it does not give them full access to the Minnesota State High School League events as an active, judged participant. Which is just fine for now.
Dance Team is an ultra-competitive sport and it takes time to build those skills. The seventh graders joining now will take at least three years of performances to build up to the JV level, just like other sports. That also means, the seniors on the team this year, are there to lift the younger ones up, not compete. That is more important than competing at this stage anyway.
“The other component that you have to look at before [worrying about competitions] is does the community have the ability to compete? So, we have not in Hastings, had a kick line, pom line, or a cheer line. We have studios, but that doesn’t mean that you necessarily belong competing at the Minnesota state high school level, just because you had a club together. So, in fairness to the dancers. Robin and I decided that we would take this approach, and we proposed everything to the school, we’ve worked with Trent the whole way. We want to build a sustainable club opportunity, competing team, whatever that might look like we’re not ready for that yet. So, we put the club together, to be a performance line for the school to kind of test those waters. We got a really positive response, and we had 25 Dancers sign up for first camp. For our first camp, like, let’s just see what kind of interest we have here. And it was 100% attendance for two weeks,” explained Nadeau.
25 kids at the first ever camp is awesome, to be a viable competition team, that number likely needs to at least triple from kids in grades 7-12 and it needs to be at least that for each year to be a sustainable, competitive team.
Having a club and holding camps is great for building and enhancing dancers’ skills. It also builds excitement for the team moving forward, but a big part of that requires coaching. For the Raiders Dance Team Club, they were extremely fortunate to land not one, but two great coaches with local ties.
Kayla Sohn danced for Jan’s for 15 years before she went to Gustavus Adolphus College for her Bachelor of Arts degree in dance as well as communications. While at Gustavus, she was a captain and member of Gustavus Dance Company. After college, Sohn went on to dance professionally with the Minnesota Swarm and Minnesota Vikings. Sohn was a sixyear dancer and two year captain with the Vikings and was the 2019 Pro Bowl Cheerleader and Cheerleader of the year. The honor earned Sohn the opportunity to travel and dance on six different national and international trips where she performed with Justin Timberlake, Jordan Davis and more. As a teacher of dance and a dance coach, she has coached in Minnesota and New York City all while balancing a full-time career with Target Corporation and a family.
Katie Boyd began dancing at Jan’s School of Dance at the age of 5. She was involved in several lines, including clogging, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, novelty, solos, duets, and even a trio. Katie recently earned her BA in Business Management with Healthcare Administration and Organizational Leadership minors. Outside of dance, Katie works with Allina Health full time. While dancing competitively at Jan’s, Katie was a student teacher for six years. She helped with younger classes involving tap and jazz, as well as assisted with pre-teen and teen lines.
Having coaches with that much experience simply adds to the quality and legitimacy of the program, now all they need is dancers. The 25 that signed up as part of the pilot program have excelled and recently, they held a camp for kids aged 5-13. 45 dancers joined the team on Todd Field for a half time performance and the fans loved it. The student section was wowed by the dancers and are excited to see a dance team come to Hastings, even if it takes a few years to enter the competition stage.
“For now, we are just looking for opportunities for our dancers to perform, get in front of people,” added Nadeau.
Those chances will come and as a retired dance dad, I am excited for Hastings to finally get a chance to experience it.
If you want to learn more about the Hastings Dance Team Club, visit www.hastingsdanceteamclub.com. There you will find all the contact information for the team organizers for registration, sponsorships, and camps or clinics.
If you have a dancer that has never been to a high school dance team competition, I will highly recommend going to one of the Metro East Conference meets this winter. I promise, you will be blown away by the athleticism and energy these events showcase. It is worth the trip to one of the area schools like Two Rivers, Park of Cottage Grove, South St. Paul, Simley, etcetera to see this whole thing in action and to look forward to what Hastings could become.