by Dennis Dalman – firstname.lastname@example.org
After winning fourth-place in the jazz category Friday, the Sartell Sabre Dance Team came back Saturday like gangbusters and danced-kicked their way into second-place honors at the Class AA statewide high-kick competition.
It’s the second consecutive year the team won second in the high-kick competition at the Minnesota High School Dance Tournament at Target Center in Minneapolis. In 2011, the Sabre dancers won first place for high kicks.
After their dance weekend, the girls and coaches celebrated in their Minneapolis motel with a pizza party. The dancers and coaches had a lot to celebrate, a lot to be proud about. The dance scores they received from judges were the best in the history of Sabre Dance Team competition. They received 96 out of a perfect 100 points for high-kick and 93 for jazz.
“They were our best performances of the year,” said head coach Kelly McCarney. “The coaching staff is very proud of all the girls. They are the hardest-working group I’ve ever had. We were competing against the best of the best, and getting second place was quite an accomplishment. Just being at the event is an amazing achievement. The whole team worked so hard, and they put so much heart in their performances. So much power and so much strength in their dance moves.”
McCarney is now in her 11th year as a Sabre dancing coach.
The 34-member Sartell-St. Stephen team always competes in the AA category of high-school competition. The category is determined by the size of school. There are three categories: A, AA and AAA.
The winner of the AA high-kick competition last weekend was Chaska, which also took first place in the jazz-dance competition. Chaska was also tops last year. Totino-Grace of Fridley took third place in high-kick, followed by Austin, Benilde-St. Margaret’s of Faribault and St. Cloud Cathedral.
In the jazz competition, Benilde-St. Margaret’s was runner-up to the champion, Chaska. Totino-Grace placed third, followed by Sartell-St. Stephen, Simley of Inver Grove Heights and St. Cloud Cathedral.
Four Sabre dancers were named by their peers to be on all-tournament teams. Ashley Bartlett and Ashley Regnier are on the all-tournament jazz team; and Jenna Runge and Amanda Smith are on the all-tournament high-kicks team.
Dancing is based on a scoring system of up to 100. The jazz category criteria are execution, choreography, skills and difficulty of the dance. The high-kicks criteria are those four in addition to technique and height of kicks.
McCarney is the head coach for the Sabre dancers, with assistance from coaches Brianna Hoffarth, Kelsey Keller and Molly Carey.
Competing in the state tournament was “very exciting and even overwhelming,” said dancer Regnier, a high school senior.
“There were definitely a lot of feelings in the Target Center,” she said.
The wins for Sartell, she added, were the result of lots of hard work and team togetherness paying off.
The Sabre dancers had a very busy season, with competition events just about every weekend. The girls would practice every day after school until 6 p.m. and sometimes early in the morning before school and on the rare weekends when there were no contests.
“It takes a lot of time management,” Regnier said. “Dance is a big part of our lives.”
The goal is to make all that hard work look “easy” for the audiences. That hard work and resultant ease came shining through especially in their jazz number, Regnier said.
“Even though we won fourth place, we were all so happy about that jazz performance,” she said. “It was a peak performance, and we are very proud and happy about it.”
The jazz number was danced to the song “Jazz Shake It” by Florence and the Machine. The music for the team’s high-kick number was a medley of tunes from the movie “All That Jazz” and some music from the movie “Chicago.” For that number, the girls wore sparkly Roaring 20s flapper outfits created by Barb Fleck of Sartell, who has created, sewn and mended outfits for the dancers for many years.
The dancers’ numbers are choreographed by a small group of junior and senior dancers, as well as the coaches.
Dancing, Regnier said, will always be a part of her life, but she doesn’t intend to make it a career. Instead, she is going to study nursing, starting next year at the University of North Dakota.