Dance Team: Warriors take whatever-it-takes mentality to state: C-I hoping quality over quantity is key

The state jazz and kick meets are scheduled for Friday, Feb. 17 and Saturday, Feb. 18.

brainerd Warrior Dance Team
The Brainerd Warriors jazz team competes during the Section 4-3A Finals Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at St. Michael-Albertville High School.
Contributed photo by Kristi Spieker

MINNEAPOLIS — The Brainerd Warriors dance team is facing adversity heading into this year’s Class 3A State Meet.

An injury over the weekend to a member of both the jazz and kick teams has Warrior head coach Cindy Clough and her coaching staff scrambling to fill the holes prior to the state meet which for Class 3A will begin 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, at Target Center in Minneapolis. State jazz will be Friday. State kick will be at the same time and place on Saturday, Feb. 18.

“This week, we’ve had quite the week,” Clough said. “We had a couple of kids get injured, unfortunately. We’re having to move some things around while trying to move as few kids as we can. We need to find someone with a similar height to go in.

“We had our kickoff show on Saturday. One of our injuries happened there so now we’re just trying to work some things. It’s not what we wanted to be doing in practice right now.”

One motivating factor for Brainerd is it is tied for second among the state-qualifying teams with its section score. Clough said it means nothing since there will be different judges at state than those scoring for the Section 4-3A finals, but she said it is encouraging.


In jazz, Brainerd would be sixth with its section score. The hope was to focus on jazz for the weeks prior to state. Clough said there were a few areas Brainerd could enhance to improve its score. For kick, it was fine-tuning timing and other small points.

“We’re just trying to focus on the job at hand, but I feel we have a lot of fine-tuning to do,” Clough said. “I feel we’re going to use this week to try to get cleaner. I think we can be way cleaner in kick and fine-tune a lot.

brainerd Warrior Dance Team
The Brainerd Warriors jazz team competes in the Section 4-3A Finals Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at St. Michael-Albertville High School.
Contributed photo by Kristi Spieker

“Our kids are willing to put the work in. We’re just at a stage where we’re getting some over-use injuries. It’s really hard because we also have to try and stay in shape cardio-wise, but not overdo it. We’re going to try to do things in increments and clean things up and save ourselves as much as possible.”

Brainerd will be the last team to compete in the preliminary round for jazz. Brainerd will hit the gathering spot right before performing at 3:07 p.m. and then show its skills at 3:32 p.m.

On Saturday for kick, Brainerd will be the first Class 3A team to hit the floor. The Warriors are scheduled for 2:04 p.m. right behind Class 2A’s Mound Westonka and right before New Prague.

“Being last is good for jazz,” Clough said. “It’s sometimes bad for nerves, but good for judging. At state, there are eight judges though and they’re only watching 12 teams. You’re going to remember 12 teams. Then they narrow it down to six. Hopefully, it won’t matter. I feel like it matters more if you’re on the bubble rather than being solidly there.”

A finals appearance is still on the goal sheet for both Warrior teams.

“We’re going to push as much as we can,” Clough said “We just made a lot of changes to jazz and (Monday) we’re going to have to work because of the injuries. We’re going to keep working on turn-timing and turn sets and just execution of what we’re doing. At this point of the year, that’s what we’re really working on.


“Kick, is about the same. We’re still trying to fine-tune details and again put these kids in that just got bumped up. It’s unfortunate that is what we’re focusing on, but we’re up to the challenge. We have a whatever-it-takes mentality.”

Class 1A

Crosby-Ironton is back at state and with section champion before both jazz and kick teams. The title does come with higher expectations and excitement.

C-I head coach Rachel Norwood is trying to temper those expectations, however, as she knows her team will have its limits. The big one is numbers.

“My expectation is always once we get to this next level is to just leave it all on the floor and walk off with no regrets,” Norwood said. “We would ideally like to final in both jazz and kick this year.

“I think that finals are a good goal for us.”

C-I will be the final Class 1A jazz team to perform. Class 1A jazz will begin 11:30 a.m. Friday. C-I will perform at 12:47 p.m. right before Lac Qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd, Holdingford, Minnewaska, Yellow Medicine East, defending state champion St. Cloud Cathedral, Lake City, Hawley, Montevideo, New London-Spicer, Zumbrota-Mazeppa and Cannon Falls.

Dancers compete in a gym.
Crosby-Ironton dancers compete in varsity jazz Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, at Crosby-Ironton High School.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The team’s average per judge was 62.375, which Norwood said was a big jump for her team. The next highest average was 60.6 this season.

“Where we try to get our points is our difficulty in skills,” Norwood said. “We have difficult skills in our dance routine. Our routine effectiveness is our highest category out of all 10 categories.”


Norwood and her student-athletes have focused on jazz skills over the last few years and the offseason work appears to be paying off for both her jazz and kick teams.

“We have been working really, really hard, especially in the offseason to grow our technical skills and our quality of movement skills,” Norwood said. “The girls have really dove into jazz and have really found a love for jazz and I think that has helped our program grow incredibly, too."

Norwood said being proficient at jazz helps with kick. She said strength is key to being able to execute jazz skills and that strength transfers to the kick side as well.

“A kick uses the same kind of muscles that you would use in a leap and a jump, too,” Norwood added. “When you’re building the strength in one category it totally transfers over into the other. It also helps you be a more well-rounded and strong cardio-heavy dancer, too.”

Norwood said the team is cleaning transitions in both routines as well as making sure each dancer is working as a cohesive unit. That’s the big struggle for a small team like C-I with just six jazz dancers and nine kick dancers.

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“It is definitely harder,” Norwood said. “We really tried to choreograph our routine so that we spread out a lot, especially in kick to give it kind of the illusion that we have more than nine on the floor. When you are hooked up kicking, you can’t really spread out anymore. It’s more difficult to get those points like visual effectiveness and formation transitions. We try to do the best we can with it, but I always tell my dancers to make it up in the other categories like routine effectiveness especially and presenting up to the judges and having that confidence and stamina. You don’t have to be a big team to do that.

“We’re competing with teams that have 24, 25, 26 girls and we have nine. Especially at the Target Center. Lac Qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd and Yellow Medicine East will have a lot of dancers. We run into teams that are much bigger and pretty much all of them are double our size.”

C-I’s kick team will be the fourth team to hit the floor. They are scheduled for 11:51 a.m. They are right behind last year’s runners-up Yellow Medicine East and right before last year’s state champion St. Cloud Cathedral.


JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at

State dance

Who: Brainerd and Crosby-Ironton in both jazz and kick

State jazz

Date: Friday, Feb. 17

When: Class 1A will start at 11:30 a.m. and Class 2A and 3A will begin at 2 p.m.; 1A finals will be at 5:30 p.m. with 2A and 3A scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

Where: Target Center, Minneapolis

State kick


Date: Saturday, Feb. 18

When: Class 1A will start at 11:30 a.m. and Class 2A and 3A will begin at 2 p.m.; 1A finals will be at 5:30 p.m. with 2A and 3A scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

Where: Target Center, Minneapolis

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