Well we’re finally at the holiday break and the dance team season is over half done already! I can’t believe we’re already talking about state plans and who will be looking good to make it to the big dance. I have some thoughts on how things have gone so far and what to look for in the upcoming January invitational season.
Kick: AAA kick is having an interesting year after the departure of two of it’s state finalists into AA and there is no clear leader in my mind at this point. I tend to reserve judgement until the “state dances” make their appearances (for teams that make a switch) so not seeing anyone bring their best is pretty normal for this time of year. The biggest surprise might be to see who is actually planning that switch at all, considering I’m seeing good money spent on “one time” costumes that might never make my state tape. Eastview traditionally changes, and I’d put money on them doing so again, but Burnsville and Apple Valley are much more questionable. EP looks invested into their wedding reception theme, and Brainerd with their “girls” mix. Overall I think teams are on to something good – I’m being more entertained this season than recent memory, but there is a lot more contrast between the good sections of routines and the “oh boy, you should fix that” parts this year. I think there will be some re-vamping over the break to hone in on what is making those dances work, leaving out the “well, we tried that” parts.
Jazz: On the jazz side of things, I think we’re experiencing a touch of rebuilding and refocusing of the AAA division. I’m not being blown away with skill, but it’s nice to be reminded that some of the top teams are actually just teenage girls for a change. With the talent being in more of an ebb, I think creative coaching and working that scoresheet will win the day. Eastview is really jumping out to me as a truly entertaining and thoughtfully put together dance, a place the Lightning haven’t usually found themselves in this time of year with jazz in the recent past. If they can consistently take 3rd with a rocky start, I would look out for what they can do when things seem to be clicking early. Wayzata and Maple Grove both look strong, but MG looks like they’re still building their talent a bit this year – does that leave the door open for a new champ? We’ll have to see. Overall I think the story here will be the teams that are on the bubble for going to state or won’t make it at all – the general level of skill and choreography has been catching up and section 4 looks especially strong. Should be some exciting matchups to come. Key events: Wayzata Invitational, Sections
Kick: Well this is a CROWDED field to say the least – I’m just glad it’s not me making the decisions. Chaska, Faribault, Austin, Simley, Holy Angels, and Benilde all look to be taking the challenge of section 1 seriously, but there isn’t a clear pattern yet showing us a hint of the state lineup. At this point Holy Angels might have the furthest to catch up, but they graduated a huge senior class and got a new coaching staff that will take time to get on track. Benilde is taking a risk doing a “jazzier” dance to the themes from “Rio” which could boom or bust, and Faribault is playing their cards close to the chest as usual, giving no indication if they’re changing their dance they way they did in AAA. St. Cloud Cathedral appeared to be making a charge back to the top, but inter team drama might get in the way as they’ll be looking to replace their entire coaching staff mid-season. So I’m not putting my eggs into anyone’s basket just yet in this division. Even Sartell hasn’t won everything, so it’s going to come down to the best on that day.
Jazz: Chaska and Totino seem to be covering some ground in this division, with the rest of last years finalists looking strong to return to the target center. This division might be the strongest of all the jazz in the state, with even some generally average teams bringing some clean turns and leaps to the floor. Key events: Totino Grace Invitational, Section 1 Championships
Kick: This is a tough one to call since so many teams compete in entirely separate circuits right up until state. Aitkin and Cannon Falls will undoubtedly be strong, they’ll have a once a season matchup in Alexandria next week that should tell us more. One big remaining question mark will be YME who doesn’t compete at all until January – I’m curious to see if they’ll be my dark horse for a kick medal this year.
Jazz: with so many of the top teams graduating big numbers of jazz dancers, it’s a wide open field for who can do the most with what they have. Duluth Marshall, Cannon Falls, and Frazee have all looked good when they’ve gotten out there so far, with Aitkin and YME still working behind the scenes. Key Events: Alexandria Invitational, Marshall Invitational, State