Spartans grab spotlight with Broadway themeTiger girls make first state berth in six years
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Casey Carlson has coached the Superior High School dance team for eight years. In that time the Spartans have advanced to state six times, which includes a streak of five straight regional titles in the kick competition.
“Kick is definitely our forte,” Carlson said. “That’s the thing that we put the most emphasis on during the season. We started the kick dance in October, so it’s definitely been a journey since then.”
The Spartans are hoping the months of work will pay off when they travel to La Crosse on Saturday for the Wisconsin Association Of Cheer/Pom Coaches (WACPC) state dance meet.
Superior advanced to state with a first-place finish in kick and a third place finish in pom at last week’s regional competition.
“We’ve never had a bad performance at state,” said senior Lindsay Sommer. “It’s always been our best performance of the season. So I think that’s what we’re aiming for is the best we’ve ever done, our personal best.”
Superior has the highest expectations for its kick dance.
For this year’s routine, the Spartans turned to an iconic musical to give them a Broadway feel. Superior’s costumes, music and choreography are all derived from “A Chorus Line.”
Carlson was inspired to take on the musical about Broadway dancers after watching a production of it by the Duluth Playhouse last year.
“Actually my old dance teacher was starring in it, and I just really got inspired and decided that’s what we’re going to do this year,” Carlson said. “It’s been a great concept for the team and they’ve really taken to it.”
“It’s more Broadway this year,” said senior Anessa Lawrence. “We’ve never really done that, so people are going to be like, ‘Wow.’”
The Spartans’ glittery gold top hats and inventive choreography have received high marks from judges all season. Carlson knew the team had something special after early success against Minnesota schools.
The Spartans took third when they debuted their kick routine at a Maple Grove competition in December and then took second in Lakeville in early January.
“Minnesota is definitely the state for dance teams, so for us to really line up with those other teams has been something else this year,” Carlson said. “We’ve just been doing so well this year that the expectations are very high for us to do well at state.”
The Spartans have built a reputation for themselves in kick. In their past four appearances at state, Superior has placed fourth three years and was the Division 1 runner-up in 2010.
The Spartans come up with a brand new routine every year, and the crowds have taken notice.
“We get there and everyone’s waiting to see our dance,” said senior Haley Tribbey. “We’ve kind of built up that name, so everyone’s always excited to see our dance.”
Superior faced an unexpected challenge to return to state this year when two members of the team became ineligible a week before the regional competition.
“It’s never happened before, but we lost two girls last week due to grades,” Carlson said. “We pulled up two JV kick girls and they learned the dance in four days and competed in regionals with it.”
The two junior varsity girls had less than a week to learn Superior’s routines. That made for a stressful week of practice and last-minute changes, but Carlson said the team came together and rallied around the new additions.
“These two girls stepped right in and really made themselves a part of the team, and the other girls helped out so much, helping them in formations and things,” Carlson said.
“It was really stressful, but they have done an amazing job learning the dance and perfecting it,” Tribbey said. “It has taken us like four months to perfect it and they have done it in a week, so they’ve done an amazing job.”
The Spartans continued to fine tune their competition dances this week, and Tribbey said the new team members now know the routines as well as anyone on the team.
“I’m not nervous at all,” she said. “I know that they’re going to perform just as well (as at regionals).”
The Spartans will also be joined at state this year by the Northwestern High School dance team. The Tigers advanced in pom in the Division 4 competition.
This marks Northwestern’s first trip to state in six years. Northwestern last advanced to state in 2007, competing in the funk category.
“The Northwestern coach (Lisa Lombard) and I are very close. We talk quite often and bounce ideas off of one another,” Carlson said.
Like Superior, the Tigers had a stressful week leading up to the regional competition. First the Tigers weren’t sure if their costumes would be ready in time for the competition, and then a dancer fell ill and had to be replaced by an alternate.
“It’s been a crazy roller-coaster for them too, but we really support one another and feel that it’s important that the teams in the region can get along, and that doesn’t always happen with teams,” Carlson said.
Sommer said she looks forward to seeing Northwestern compete at state, and her fellow seniors agreed.
“We don’t compete with each other because we’re in different divisions, but we’re very supportive of them just like they are for us,” Lawrence said. “And it’s kind of nice that we have their support because when we go down to state, we’re the only people up here that go down to state; it’s nice to know that we can help each other at state and cheer each other on.”
The Spartans and Tigers compete Saturday in La Crosse. The Tigers are scheduled to perform their pom routine at 3:14 p.m.
Superior competes in pom at 9:46 a.m. and in kick at 1:07 p.m. The Spartans will be the eighth of nine teams to perform in kick, which Carlson said puts them in an ideal position.
Competing with Superior in the Division 1 kick category are: Tomah, Bay Port, Hortonville, Homestead, Merrill, Watertown, Mukwonago and Green Bay Southwest.
Mukwonago won the Division 1 kick title in 2012. The Spartans tied with Homestead last season for fourth place.
Members of the Spartan dance team are: seniors Sommer, Lawrence and Tribbey; juniors Megan Dallman, Brooke Larson, Riley McGrath, Emily Olson, Courtney Quam, Sam Roske, Haley Siers, Shaylee Sockoloski, Rachel Stipetich and Emily Stack; sophomores Geordann Glonek, Sam Hansen, Gabby Heytens, Nikkie Honness, Taylor Lindsey and Kjertsten Lisak; and freshmen Sophie Goad, Alysha Johnson, Alyssa Lawrence and Sara Thompson.
Assistant coaches on this year’s team are Erin Carlson, Jessica Cohen, Emily Hall, Nicole Scharte and Rachel Schimenek.