"You just have to trust us:" Detroit Lakes dance teams taking risks in hopes of more favorable finishes
Detroit Lakes jazz and high kick teams take an alternative approach to this year's routines after struggling to connect well with the judges in 2020-21.
Detroit Lakes dance head coach Britton Ramsey has set out a challenge for her girls this winter: be different.
The Lakers are taking alternative approaches to their jazz and kick routines for the 2021-22 season. Instead of an upbeat tune and traditional dances, this season is about taking risks and trusting the process in hopes of separating themselves from the rest of the field.
Demi Lovato's "Anyone" is the tune of the Detroit Lakes jazz ensemble, which packs a heavier punch than song choices in years past.
"It's hard to listen to this song and not feel something," Ramsey said. "After listening to it, we decided to add in some actual news headlines regarding teen depression to make it personable to the kids on the floor. It's something they can relate to emotionally."
Last winter, the Lakers took a completely opposite approach and felt like they weren't in favor of the judges. This time around, Ramsey capitalized on the experience from her jazz team to take a more meaningful stance.
"I have loved this song since I heard Demi sing it at an awards show," Ramsey said. "For a few years now, it's been one that we've talked about. We knew we wanted to do a lyrical. We wanted to be upbeat and sassy last year, and I don't think the judges loved it. We are doing a 180 and showing a different side of who we can be."
Senior captain Marit Engum has been dancing at the varsity level since she was in seventh grade. In doing a routine centered around the importance of mental health in teens, she's hoping the Lakers can pull from personal anecdotes to help convey heavy emotion to the judges.
"It's a lot different than doing a sassy, upbeat-type jazz dance," Engum said. "You really have to feel the emotion. You have to try and make it relate to you personally so you can portray that to the audience so they can feel what you're feeling.
The jazz team took sixth at the Section 8A meet last year with a score of 18.5. Sartell, Rocori and St. Cloud Cathedral finished in the top three to advance to state. In the Minnesota State High School League's state-wide section shakeup, Sartell and Cathedral have moved out of 8A, opening the door for other teams to step in.
"For the past couple of years, we've been stuck at that sixth, seventh-place area," Engum said. "This year, I really think the difference in getting past those teams in second, third and fourth is getting that emotional level up. The difference between those top teams isn't a lot of points. It feels like a fresh slate. It gives a lot more motivation for all teams to put their best foot forward to try and to try and do the dances as well as they can. It's a whole new year."
"They are a super technical team," Ramsey said of the jazz team. "They are a very skilled and talented group of kids. We try to choreograph, knowing we had a super technical team this year. It's a really hard dance for them this season."
The high-kick team is loaded with newcomers to the varsity scene. The Lakers are going with an unedited rendition of Aerosmith's "Dream On" this winter to try and leap into the top half of the field.
"We left it unedited intentionally," Ramsey said. "It's traditionally a slower song. There isn't a strong beat to kick on. It's totally different, but I think it's going to go over well. I think the judges will like it."
"We choreographed an intricate, high-visual routine for the judges that are sitting at the top of the bleachers," Ramsey said. "They're going to see all of this kaleidoscope-looking stuff, and that was intentional. It's pretty difficult. We're throwing it back with a super classic song because who doesn't love Aerosmith?"
Even though there isn't a specific category for song choice and routine style, the overall presentation is subjective to the judges. If they aren't feeling the vibe of a dance, it will likely reflect a team's score.
"It's been hard, especially in kick," Ramsey said. "The risk that we're taking in kick hasn't been done by them before at the three studios we have in town. We just said, 'You just have to trust us.' We think we can pull it off if it goes the way we planned."
Ramsey is leaning on her veterans this year that have been through it all. After a season filled with Google Meet practices, text message award ceremonies and a lack of team bonding, the seniors are glad to get one more year where everything is back to normal.
"It's really important to me," Engum said of being a leader. "I've been on varsity since seventh grade, so I've been doing this for a few years now. It's just nice to see all of the work you put in over the years. I want to lead this team and make a positive impact."