Dance team: A sport that doesn't get the respect it deserves

  • Article by: MICHELLE ROTTER
  • Updated: February 5, 2014 - 1:36 PM

It’s more popular than you think, and the participants work hard.

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At the Minnesota State High School League’s state dance team tournament each February, schools compete in three classes and two divisions: high kick and jazz.

Photo: MARISA WOJCIK • Star Tribune file,

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What if there were a women’s sport that would challenge your daughter’s strength, stamina, flexibility and balance, and build her self-confidence? What if this sport were so popular that more Minnesota high school girls participated in it than in any other sport, and if it were second only to football for all sports participation in the state? And what if this sport had amazing boosters? Too good to be true? It’s not. It’s the high school dance team.

Dance team is a huge sport, though most people never think twice about it. The participants are sometimes thought of as “pageant girls,” just there to entertain the crowds at halftime until the real sport of football comes back onto the field. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A lot of the girls who participate have been dancing since they were 2. They have learned strength from hours of push-ups and sit-ups at practice. They have built up their stamina enough to be able to endure 2½ minutes of all-out dancing. They have increased their flexibility enough to be able to lift their legs up over their heads without even thinking about it. They can do pirouettes on grass and gym floors without skipping a beat. And when is the last time you went in front of a crowd of hundreds to dance? That takes quite a bit of self-confidence.

Why have you never heard of this amazing sport? The girls who participate in the fall season dance at home football games and participate in weekend shows at schools around the state. This fall season is meant for learning new dance moves and having fun — it is considered an “activity” because of new Minnesota State High School League regulations about the same sport running two seasons.

When you get to the winter season, the real work begins. Winter dance team is classified as a sport and has a state tournament at the end of the season — just like every other sport.

Dance team is probably one of the best spectator sports for high school parents. You get a show, it’s competitive and if you have a daughter on the team, there are great memories of watching her dance.

And when competition is done for the year? Most teams are already planning for the next year — listening to music, thinking about new and exciting choreography — and some members are even coaching middle-school teams. It’s a big circle of young women helping the girls who are coming up the ranks.

Who wouldn’t want their daughter involved in such a great sport?

But again, why have you never heard all of this? Because dance team is almost never covered by mainstream media. None of the local newscasts covers the road to state for these girls. (Sometimes, there is a 10-second clip of the state tournament at the end of the sports segment.) Once again, this is the No. 1 sport for participation among girls and No. 2 behind football for all sports in the state.

Just a small piece of advice from this dance mom to local news stations: If you start covering dance team, there are a lot of families who will watch your channel just to see it.

Our girls work hard, and they deserve respect for being the athletes that they are.

This year, the state dance team tournament will be held at the Target Center on Feb. 14 and 15.

 

Michelle Rotter is booster secretary and Hype Committee chair of a metro-area dance team.

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