The last time -- the only time -- the Laker Dance Team went to state was 10 years ago this upcoming February.
Britton Ramsey, head coach for the Detroit Lakes High School team, said that her team "really, really, really want(s) to go to state" on the 10-year mark, "they are hungry for that."
The team members got a taste of victories last year when they had multiple firsts in their 2018-19 dance season. The Varsity jazz team won their first Mid-State Conference title, both Varsity jazz and high kick placed in the top three in the season-long conference race for the first time in school history, they had JV and Varsity sweeps in three competitions, and more.
The Laker Dance Team's state-bound hunt will start on Saturday, Dec. 7, with their first competition at home. This is also their only home competition, and last home-showing for senior captains Hope Hansen and Trisha Gebhart.
"The first one is always crazy because we're at home so we're comfortable, but it's also the first one," Hansen said.
"I just want to see what we have and what we bring," Gebhart added. "I'm so excited, I can't wait for it to be here."
The competition starts at 11 a.m. and 15 teams will be there.
"It's a smaller AA division but that's just because there isn't very many people in AA around these parts," Ramsey said. "A lot of A powerhouses will be there; it will make for a really fun A division this early in the season."
An early, strong start
The Laker dance season kicked off with auditions in the spring. Because of an unusually high turnout, the team has 47 dancers this year. The dancers are split between Varsity jazz, Varsity high kick, JV jazz, JV high kick and B-squad jazz -- a new team this year.
The Varsity high kick team has 21 dancers this year, ranging from seventh to 12th grade. They are performing to "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen. Ramsey said that the song choice was easy; she and the other coaches and dancers loved it.
"We're wanting it to just be a really fun, energetic, high-energy level routine," Ramsey said. "Which is a little bit different than what we've done the last few years."
They're adding a more visual element this year and focusing on using the floor more with formations, she said. But the big change is a turn set in the kick routine.
"We have enough kick kids that can do it and it worked with the music really well," Ramsey explained.
Having a strong turning team shows in their Varsity jazz dance as well. They're performing to a lyrical version of “I Want to Know What Love Is,” originally sung by Foreigner, which is a big change compared to their previous years. Lyrical dances are generally set to slower, more emotional songs and combine ballet and other dance genres.
Ramsey and her coaches chose the song for that reason -- they saw a team that is "really talented and have the ability to emote," she said.
“We can kind of kick the doors open for what we want to do," she said.
Co-ed rule change
While the Laker Dance Team saw a change this year in their song choices and routines, there's also a statewide change for all Minnesota Dance Teams: boys can now join.
One male student has joined the Laker JV team this year.
Bob Madison, the Associate Director with the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) said that the change occurred because of an opinion by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling that "no advantage would be gained by allowing boys to participate in dance." Two boys in the Twin Cities helped spark the change by filing a suit in summer 2018 over the matter, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
For the Laker Dance Team, Ramsey said that "it really hasn't changed anything" by having a male dancer. The only difference so far is "having to accommodate like dressing areas," and "be mindful of choreography and uniforms." Madison shared that there are no rule, skill or technique changes by the MSHSL this year either, which keeps teams and competitions relatively the same.
Goals, leadership and positivity
"We definitely have a lot of potential this year, definitely more than we've had in the past and that's really exciting to see," Gebhart said.
They're hoping that that potential will get them to the state competition.
"It's going to be a tough road for us to get there," Ramsey said, explaining that the Laker team is in the AA section. That section "is so tight and so good. (The team) knows that, but they really want it. They have their eyes on that."
Although Ramsey agrees that a trip to state is the goal, she wants to meet other accomplishments along the way.
"Our goal ... is to have kids that like each other, that like the sport, like us and work hard," she said. "I think if we can do all those things, the things like conference placement, then the scores that we're looking for, will probably come."
Her captains last year made a positive difference, Ramsey said, and "catapulted" them into a good place this year. Hansen and Gebhart take their place with multiple years of Varsity experience, and Ramsey said that they are "two of the hardest-working kids I've coached in the last 10 years." Hansen will also be featured in a future Dance Spirit Magazine for her leadership role, Ramsey said.
"It's really important that the people who are the most vocal on the team are the most positive," Hansen said as Gebhart agreed, adding that they are "really trying to be positive; that it's fun to come to dance."
For their last season, Hansen and Gebhart hope that they "leave this season knowing that we gave it our all and did everything we could," Hansen said.
If you go
- What: Laker Dance Team Home Invite
- When: Saturday, Dec. 7
- Time: Competition starts at 11 a.m., doors open at 10 a.m.
- Where: Detroit Lakes High School gym
- Cost: $3 for kids, $6 for adults