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Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Members of the Worthington High School dance team practice their varsity kick in the gym at Prairie Elementary.

Dance: WHS 'kicks' off its season Saturday

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sports Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON – After three months of conditioning, choreography and drilling, the 20 eighth- through 12th-grade members of the Worthington High School dance team will kick off their competitive season Saturday —hopefully in impeccable form.

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“Each practice involves stretching, some conditioning and what we call ‘drilling ’—going over each little step ‘til it’s perfect,” emphasized head coach Tasha Raymo.

Under the direction of Raymo and assistant coach Randi Mimick, the girls have put in over two hours each weekday after school since October, but the competition really starts now.

“We go to Marshall on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m., and there are five competitions total ending with sections on Feb. 8 at Montevideo,” noted Raymo.

“I am really excited for this year, because based on the advance looks we’ve had at the other teams, we appear to be well positioned for this season.”

Mimick agrees.

“We’ve always had a great group of girls, and our three captains (senior Rachel Drietz and juniors Katherine Luke and Laura Koepsell for 2013-14) help guide the other dancers,” said Mimick.

“We work our dancers pretty hard, really push them, and we want to see them dance with confidence.”

Besides Drietz, other senior dance team members are Chittika Ektamitphong and Alicia Khatt.

“About 50 percent of our team members are returnees, while several are completely new to dance and a few are even new to the U.S. and are still learning English,” said Raymo. “They have learned so much from other dance team girls, and they really enjoy it.”

High school dance teams in the state compete in two primary categories — high kick and jazz. All 20 WHS dancers participate in the team’s high kick number, which this year is performed to a Michael Jackson remix.

For jazz, Raymo and Mimick divide their dancers into varsity and junior varsity, with the six varsity girls’ routine accompanied by “Seven Nation” and the 14 JV girls dancing to an upbeat Carly Rae Jepsen song titled “Tonight I’m Getting Over You.”

“There are no number limits for kick, and you can see kick routines done with 25 or more dancers,” explained Mimick. “In jazz, you can have 20 or more dancers in a routine, if you have the numbers for that, but the jazz teams tend to be smaller than kick teams because the jazz technique is more rigorous than kick.”

While local spectators may be familiar with dance team routines from observing their halftime performances at home basketball games, Raymo said competition dates are “completely different than what you might think.

“We arrive very early, do hair and makeup, and practice on the dance floor to get a sense of spacing and how the floor feels —without any judges or other teams watching —and then the National Anthem is played, like at every other sporting event,” explained Raymo.

“Some competitions last three hours, some last up to 10 hours.”

“Marshall is normally a very large competition, with more than 10 teams competing,” added Mimick. “And Marshall is a AA school for dance team while we’re an A school, so we’ll see teams from both.”

Dance teams are scored on a 100-point scale, with rankings in 10 different sections (kicks, jazz skills, execution, choreography and difficulty, to name a few) worth up to 10 points each. Three to eight judges score each routine, and dance teams learn their scores at an awards ceremony when all competing teams’ dances are completed.

“If you get mostly 8s, 9s and 10s, you are doing well,” explained Raymo.

Doing well is something for which the WHS team captains are absolutely striving.

“My hope and dream is to go to state,” revealed Drietz, a four-year dance team member who has studied dance from age 5. “All of us have that as our main goal, and our jazz team got so close last year.

“We’re even better this year, and we’re making improvements all the time.”

Drietz’s co-captains, Luke and Koepsell, concur.

“Practice is hard, but we cheer each other on,” said Luke. “Our coaches are always supportive, and it’s fun to help the girls who are new to dance feel welcome and to teach them new things.”

Koepsell, who has danced since she was 3 and has no plans to stop anytime soon, said the repetition necessary to perfect routines is the most challenging aspect of dance team.

“I’m excited for the competitions each weekend,” said Koepsell.

All three of the captains say they like the jazz routines best.

“Jazz involves more turning and technical stuff, and it’s easier to put your own flair into jazz —with kick, it’s more about matching each other,” shared Drietz. “My favorite thing about dance team, though, is competition, and I enjoy the makeup, getting all glitzed up.”

But to anyone who thinks dance team is for lightweights, Luke issues this challenge:

“They should just come and try it,” she urged. “There is a lot that goes into choreographing, perfecting and fitting everything together in a dance, and it takes a lot of work to build up your skills.”

Two teams the WHS girls want to beat are Tracy-Milroy-Balaton and Renville County West.

“We’re hoping to come out in front of them this year,” asserted Luke.

“They’re the ones with the targets on their backs,” agreed Drietz.

The WHS Dance Team competes Saturday at 10 a.m. at Marshall High School. Subsequent competitions are Jan. 18 at Yellow Medicine East, Jan. 25 at Canby, Jan. 31 at Lakeview and Feb. 8 at Montevideo. The “Kids’ Clinic,” for kindergarten through sixth graders interested in dance, will take place in Worthington on Saturday, Feb. 1. For more information, contact Tasha Raymo at tasha.raymo@isd518.net

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