Coming off a milestone season, Brainerd has had to reinvent the way it does things this season in order to carry that momentum into the new year.
Dance teams were allowed to start choreography sessions Nov. 9, but the last governor-induced shutdown, enacted Nov. 20, halted progress made in that short time.
Being shutdown didn’t prevent the Warriors from working on routines and perfecting choreography, however.
“Our team has been having virtual practice since our season opened on Nov. 23,” Brainerd head coach Cindy Clough said. “We had two days in person before the state shut us down. Since we were in-season, we were allowed to keep practicing virtually via zoom. It has gone better than expected.
“Our challenge is timing and formations, which were just on the back burner until Jan. 4 when we were back in person.”
Clough said the focus during the shutdown was improving strength, flexibility and endurance, while also focusing on the choreography of both the jazz and high kick routines.
Last year’s routines resulted in Brainerd sweeping the Section 4-3A tournament for the second-straight year and then advancing to both state finals. In the state finals, Brainerd posted a program-best fifth-place finish in jazz and then placed fourth in the kick division a day later.
Brainerd’s kick routine this season is entitled “The Beatles are Back.”
“It is a montage of numerous Beatles songs,” Clough said. “The songs are Techno in nature and different. I feel our extreme tempo changes will help with difficulty scores. It goes from slow to fast and also changes from six-count measures to eight counts which is tough mentally.”
Kick routines are typically 2:30-3 minutes in length, but this year the Minnesota State High School League shortened the length to 2:15-3 minutes to account for a shorter training period because one month was cut from the season.
Jazz remains at 2:30-3 minutes in length.
Brainerd’s jazz routine owns a tango/rhumba vibe and uses instrumental music. It is entitled “Roxanne.”
“Our team is very excited about it,” Clough said. “Our athletes can move beautifully. We graduated only four out of 12 from our jazz team, but we have a lot of athletes wanting to move up.
“For the last two years, we were section champs in jazz so we feel we are strong.”
Clough’s confidence and optimism stem from a veteran coaching staff behind her as well as what she has called one of the better groups of student choreographers she has worked with.
Those athletes include: Jada Bentson, Sierra Chisholm, Macin Freed, Quinn Geraets, India Hiltner, Semme Hiltner, Bailey Koop, Aubri Metz, Greta Schloemer, Thea Shogren and Michaela Steichen.
“The coaches balance each other and have so much experience,” Clough said. “Each coach adds their own gift to the team. Julie Davidge has a great deal of compassion and fabulous listening skills. Terri Ebinger is dedicated and keeps us on the right path. Ali Clough-Geraets leads us in yoga, strength, stretching, and choreography.
“Our coaches are pretty versatile, so if one has to be gone, the other can take over in the lead position. All coaches have an eye for various elements and balance each other. They split up to watch all sides to figure out issues, timing, offishness, etc. All coaches have a good eye for the sport.”
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, Brainerd’s schedule will be different than in years past. Teams can only compete with teams in the same section and conference. Crowd size is still being figured out with the use of live streaming being used for those who can’t be in attendance.
Only three teams will be allowed in the school at the same time and awards will be done virtually.
Just For Kix is planning on doing its Holiday Show Feb. 5-6. The Warrior dance team will perform during the show. This year the plan is to have nine different performances to accommodate the smaller crowd sizes.
The first conference meet will be Jan. 30 in Sartell. The second meet is projected to be on Feb. 20.
“We will be pushing hard right out of the gate,” Clough said. “Competing 10 days after we start in person will be tough, but we are up for the challenge. There will be so much pressure during the early portion of the season.”
Despite the season’s unique format, Brainerd’s goals remain the same. It hopes to repeat as section champions and set new milestones at state.
“There was a time when we were stronger in kick than jazz in the last few years that has flipped,” Clough said. “It is rewarding how good we are getting at jazz. The team is landing full team quint pirouettes. They are also adding acro-dance elements such as walkovers etc. Our turn sets are getting very hard with long sets of A La Secondes’ (turns in the second position) with changing spots. We are pretty proud of how far we have come in the jazz category.”
The junior varsity will compete with a kick routine featuring a Missy Elliot Mix. It is a former varsity routine redone. Clough said the difficulty is high, which will provide a challenge for the JV to push and improve. The junior varsity Jazz will be half the varsity doing the same routine, as they cannot intermix pods due to COVID.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.
2020-21 Dance team
Head coach: Cindy Clough, 44th season
Assistant coaches: Julie Davidge (14th year), Ali Clough-Geraets (14th year), Terri Ebinger (5th year as JV coach, former 6-year varsity coach)
2019-20 jazz: Won Section 4-3A title, 5th at state
2019-20 kick: Won Section 4-3A title, 4th at state
Captain: Aubri Metz
Manager: Ana Wickham