Jan. 15, 2007

Off to an 'awesome start'

Delano Dance Team takes first in jazz funk and second in high kick

By Kelsey Linden
Staff Writer

With there only being four competitions in the entire dance season, Delano’s Dance Team left Fridley recently sending a victorious message of hard-earned success by placing second, closely behind leading competitor Austin.

As a team, it performs two dances, the high kick and the jazz funk. Being ranked on a scale of 1-10, the team nearly swept the board at its first competition, with mostly all eights. The team ranked first in jazz funk and second in high kick.

Austin has qualified for state the past five years. At Fridley, the team placed first in high kick and second in jazz funk.

“Our scores were both really close,” commented team member Emily Knudson.

In comparison to Austin’s heavily-populated team, Delano team member Angela Snaza said, “We’re smaller, so we have to work so much harder.”

The scores Delano received are a true indication of its hard work. Many categories are measured in the scoring, but above all, physical stamina, accuracy, and presentation are the most important.

Receiving a score of 10 “doesn’t happen very often,” said captain Katherine Sangster.

She can only recall one time when the team scored a nine in her past three years on the dance team.

At this competition, “we tried for all eights and I think we only got one seven,” she said.

The scores were unexpected for captain Raya Zimmerman.

“I did not expect that place at all, but after I watched it at home on video camera, I was amazed at how well we did. What we did on Saturday was where we were last year at sections. I think we will have a good chance at going to state,” Zimmerman said.

On the day of sections (last competition), the dance team must place third to qualify for the state finals.

Head coach Laurie Schaust touched on the older days. She said back then, all the teams went to state, but now that the teams have grown, participation at the state tournament is limited to the best of the best.

In competition, Schaust said, “We have to be focused. We have one of the toughest sections in our class AA. We have a lot of veterans on our line this year. My juniors and seniors are my veterans. As veterans, they know what to expect and how to get to the place where they’re at now.”

In the past 15 years, Schaust guessed the team has gone to state 10 times.

From junior Mackenzie Forcier’s perspective, “the girls in my class have never been to state. I have no idea what it’s going to be like.”

Crunch time is hard and timely. The team prepares diligently with double practices.

The dance team really gave up its winter break, practicing three or more hours a day.

Captain Emily Hutter said, “We’ve really been pushing it the past few weeks.”

Now, being back in the cafeteria for practice, it is time for “polishing the certain parts that don’t look good and making certain that everything looks just right,” said Bethany Locklear.

Even with all the work and struggle, Locklear said, “In the end, it’s all totally worth it. Just from the sound of the fans cheering from all areas of the auditorium, the girls might get a little nervous, but it livens the team to perform above and beyond its best.”

Leaning up with excitement, Angela Snaza smiled as she discussed the feeling of the stage.

“There is nothing else like it. It’s like the most exciting feeling ever when you get to go out and dance,” she said.

Unlike some victories that may lead a team or group to over-estimate its talent and skill, a majority of the girls strongly believe that this first competition will only encourage them to work harder.

Zimmerman added, “I don’t think it will cloud our minds.”

Agreeing, Sangster said, “If anything, it’s going to help us work harder. It boosted our self esteem and it can only get better.”

Zimmerman was quick to acknowledge Schaust.

“Laurie definitely is encouraging us and is always there for us at our side. I think she deserves a lot of credit for how far we’ve gotten,” Zimmerman said.

Schaust cannot even express her gratitude towards assistant coaches Lezlie Chase and Melissa Welz. Both were captains during their years in high school.

“They are dedicated and they are incredible,” Schaust said of her assistants.

Along with Chase, Welz feels “very confident. It’s a good year. We have a lot of strong dancers. Most of all, we’re just having fun and everything’s just going smoothly.”

It is a team effort. If one girls suffers, the whole team suffers. Dance team is clearly a sport that requires “commitment and dedication. You have to want to do it,” Forcier said.

“It’s something anyone can do if they have a passion for it,” Sangster said.

Delano proves on and off the stage that it has that undying passion to succeed and take its skills and talent to a state competition level.

“It’s going to be this year, I can feel it,” said Sangster.

People will have a chance to see firsthand the strength of Delano’s dance team, when the third competition of the year will take place at the Delano Middle School auditorium Saturday, Jan. 27 at 4 p.m.

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