by Cori Hilsgen
Local dancers from Sartell, St. Stephen and St. Joseph recently competed with hundreds of Just For Kix dancers at three “United We Dance” competitions in March and brought home the top awards.
Competitions were held in Bloomington, St. Cloud and Wahpeton, N.D. Dancers competed in various categories such as jazz, kick, lyrical and hip hop.
St. Cloud area teams took home a total of 18 first-place wins, eight second-place wins and six third-place wins in March.
JFK began 30 years ago and has been in the St. Cloud area for more than 20 years under the direction of Sandy House, who said the dancers have worked hard all season.
“They learned about being great teammates and confident performers, along with mastering challenging dance skills,” House said. “Our teams truly did their best at the events and for that we are extremely proud.”
House said JFK Dancers in second- through 12th-grade work hard to perform at their best ability. She also said the competitions promote striving for excellence and are a way for coaches to teach dancers about working hard and having poise and confidence in front of audiences. JFK coaches teach dancers doing their best is more important than being the best.
Cortney Carlson, a Sartell fourth-grade student, has been dancing with JFK for seven years. Carlson said competing is exciting.
“I love music and learning new dances,” Carlson said. “I love going to practice and always want to improve and learn as much as I can. We have a two-hour practice, and it is something I look forward to every week. If you dance like you want to win, you can win. It feels awesome to work so hard and be rewarded by winning a competition.”
Cortney’s mother, Mary Carlson, said she feels having her daughter in JFK dance was the best decision. Carlson said Cortney has never said she didn’t want to go to practice.
“Every year I see her becoming more outgoing, and she takes it seriously, which is what a dancer needs to do to grow,” Mary Carlson said. “I think her being in dance has made her know when you are on a team it’s a commitment and you need to give it your all. This experience can only help her grow as a person.”
Olivia Chareunrath, a Sartell fifth-grade student, said being in dance is like being in another world.
“I am able to set everything aside and I feel free,” Chareunrath said. “Nothing beats the feeling I get when I am about to go out and dance.”
Chareunrath said she spends more than four hours each week at dance and loves every minute of it. She said she enjoys the routines and shows the coaches put together. Chareunrath said her favorite part of competitions is seeing the other teams dance and the excitement of getting to travel to different areas and meeting other dancers.
“Being in dance has taught me when you put a dance together it is not just about you, because you need the whole team to make it work,” Chareunrath said. “Dance has taught me to encourage others and to work hard to achieve my goals.”
She said it feels great to win because she knows the hard work the team has put in has shown and paid off. She has also learned it is important to cheer on the other teams whether her team wins or loses.
Leanna Chlan, a St. Joseph ninth-grade Apollo High School student, has been dancing with JFK since she was 3. Chlan said JFK has taught her about being a part of a team.
“A great part about being in dance has been learning at a young age about what being part of a team really is, then realizing we are more than a team,” Chlan said. “We share laughter, pain, smiles, tears and our hearts just to learn we are more like friends.”
St. Cloud area teams also competed in Rochester April 14 and brought home a total of nine first-place wins, four second-place wins and five third-place wins.
House said the JFK dancers have shown great sportsmanship, which is one of the many life skills they focus on teaching in JFK.
JFK area dancers are also preparing for the studio’s spring shows on May 19 at the Sauk Rapids-Rice High School. For information call 320-251-9104.