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Alex dance team hoping for chance to pick up where it left off

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The Alexandria varsity kick team performs at the Central Lakes Championship last winter season. Dance teams across Minnesota had already started practice when the pause in sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic went into effect on Nov. 20 and are now doing what they can to stay ready in hopes that the season resumes later this winter. (Photo by @mattebphoto / Dancers of Minnesota custom dance portraits)
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While most winter sports teams are waiting to see when their seasons will start, the Alexandria dance team is hoping to get an opportunity to pick up where it left off.

Dance is the one winter sport at AAHS within the Minnesota State High School League that had started practice when the pause in sports due to Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order went into effect late on the night of Nov. 20. The Cardinals had 20 dancers preparing for the season opener -- a dual that was scheduled for Dec. 18, with the Central Lakes Conference opener slated for the following day. Now they are like every other high school athlete waiting to see what will happen after the four-week pause comes to pass on Dec. 18.

“Practice was going well,” Alexandria head coach Kassandra Gibbons said. “The first two days of the practices, we had tryouts. Dancers learned a combination from each varsity dance to perform, as well as demonstrating various skills. By Wednesday, we had placed teams. We started learning dances on Thursday and Friday, while also learning some technique.”

The Alexandria coaching staff had an opportunity to talk to their athletes together and try to implement a positive mindset within the group. No one knows yet when or if a restart to the season might happen, but that’s certainly a possibility that coaches wanted the kids to realize.

“(We) really focused on letting the girls know that this was still a valuable time,” Gibbons said. “This time gave us the opportunity to train and work on technique while also growing our bond as a team. We emphasized to the girls that this is not a ‘forever’ thing and that it is only temporary and that we should be grateful we got the time together in person that we did.”

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The Cardinals will try to use this four-week period to do what they can to be ready for when the season does restart. Meeting in person as a group is not an option, but technology does allow the athletes and coaches to stay together in some sense.

“On days when the full team is on a meet, we are able to break up into varsity and junior varsity and work on learning more of the choreography for our dances,” Gibbons said. “It has definitely posed a challenge, as there are a lot of different groupings of choreography in one segment of a dance. It is also challenging because some cameras reverse and learning a dance from a screen is very different than in person.”

This poses its challenges, but the Cardinals are doing their best to work through them.

“We have to be very clear about what direction dancers are facing, what foot/arm is actually doing movement,” Gibbons said. “We also have a really great choreography team made up of fellow teammate dancers that is very prepared and able to demonstrate everything for the team. They also created video recordings so girls can review dances.”

The Cardinals are also using this time to stay in shape with a wide variety of cross-training workouts. It’s not ideal, but coaches are trying to get creative to keep the athletes engaged in hopes that the dance season starts back up again in late December.

“When we were in person, we were able to split the dancers up in mini groups called ‘families.’ This creates smaller groups within the team that the dancers can really get to know,” Gibbons said. “We have integrated a little friendly competition between families in some of our virtual practices. One of those things last week was a scavenger hunt between families. The girls love when there is a little competition involved.”

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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