Proponents for a St. Michael-Albertville High School dance team got an early holiday gift at the last November school board meeting, when the board unanimously approved the addition of a Minnesota State High School League girl’s dance team at STMA High School.
Dance team organizers have run fall and winter dance teams through community education over the past two years as they worked to build up a base of support and prove to the school board that they could maintain a sustainable program.
With that proof in hand and the support of activities director Brian Benson and superintendent Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault, the dance instructors and supporters made their case to the school board that they were ready for a team through the state high school league.
“They’ve been working over the past two years to develop growth, interest and sustainability, and they have done that,” Benson said.
The school board agreed, and starting next winter STMA High School will have a girl’s varsity team for jazz and high kick dancing and will also provide a JV team if numbers allow, Benson said. They will compete about 8-10 times per year both in conference meets and larger invitationals. Dance team coach Jennifer Klemmensen said they would like to have a dance team through community education for middle school students so they can develop and filter up to the high school teams.
“Our ultimate goal is to have a high school and then a middle school team as well,” she said. “We would really like to have those seventh and eighth graders start developing those skills for the dance team so that when they get into high school they can already have the basic skills for it.”
The school district will cover the cost of coaching, transportation to and from the competitions and fees, but Klemmenson said a booster club would support them to keep expenses down when they purchase costumes or accessories.
STMA is one of the last schools in the Mississippi 8 athletic conference to have a dance team, with 8 of the 10 conference schools now having one. Benson said a different group formed a high school dance team about a decade ago, but he said the program’s numbers quickly dropped off and they canceled the sport after a couple years. This time around, Benson said the conditions were right to add it back.
“We have such passionate, dedicated dancers that are so excited about this,” Klemmensen said.
“There is a solid group of dancers that have been participating in our club,” Benson said. “We’re really confident this isn’t just a second try, the superintendent and I believe we have a sustainable program that we’ll be able to maintain for many years.
“There’s a lot of excitement right now about dance,” he added. “This was the right time to add it.”
Benson also noted that there are now two more athletic opportunities for females than males, but proportionally the number of STMA females in athletics has been stagnant for several years over male participation numbers.
“Adding girl’s dance will increase the number of female students participating in our athletic programs and will proportionally bring us more in balance with the number of female and males participating in athletic programs,” Benson said.