By JOANNE FOX
Dancers at Bishop Garrigan High School, Algona, and St. Mary High School, Storm Lake, not only think they can dance (to paraphrase a television show title), competitions have proven they know how to dance.
The Iowa Dance and Drill Team State Championships were held Nov. 30 to Dec 1, in Des Moines with more than 5,000 participants representing 260 high school dance teams and 24 college dance teams.
Garrigan competed in the categories of Pom and Kick and received first place for both routines. The team was also awarded the Distinguished Academic award for having a team GPA above 3.5.
St. Mary’s was state champion in Class I Pom and earned a Division 1 rating in Small School Military.
First year Garrigan Coach Katie Miller is a Golden Bear alumna and former dance team member from 2007 to 2011.
“I am so honored to be back at the school as a coach,” said Miller, whose day job is as a jeweler/gemologist at Merle Norman Cosmetics and Grandgenett Jewelry in Algona. “I learned so many valuable lessons at Garrigan, both inside and outside of the classroom.”
Miller’s dance coach was Colleen Conway Schiltz who stepped down last year after 25 years of coaching the BGHS dancers.
“I’m still employed as part of the coaching staff but as a mentor,” Schiltz said. “Katie and Julie Illg (another BGHS dance coach) accepted their positions on the understanding I would walk them through competitions, performances, fundraising and spring show and just be there for them.”
St. Mary first-year dance coach Victoria Stille was not sure on the exact year a team began for the Storm Lake school, “but we have trophies dating back to 1982.”
“Coming in as a first-year coach at a new school, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect,” she admitted. “I could not be more blessed to have a team as hardworking, passionate and dedicated as these girls.”
Like any athlete, the dancers have practice sessions. Garrigan dancers meet weekdays at either 6 a.m. or 3:30 p.m. St. Mary’s dancers rehearse Monday nights and Thursday mornings and add practices as needed.
“During the month before state competition, we would have two-a-day practices, where the girls would practice both with me in the morning and Julie in the afternoon,” Miller clarified.
State competition routines for Garrigan are choreographed Aimee Dahlhauser and Rebecca Molsberry. St. Mary’s state routines are choreographed by Stille.
Both parochial school teams are divided up into groups to choreography and teach a routine for performances at the Garrigan Golden Bears and St. Mary’s Panthers basketball half-time shows.
This year Garrigan has seven dancers on the squad. St. Mary’s has 12 girls on the team.
Miller felt being on the Bishop Garrigan Dance Team meant more than just being a dancer.
“The team strives to be leaders in the classroom as well as the community,” she said. “My dancers strive to be the good in the world and giving back to our community by acts of service is one way that we try to achieve just that.”
Another thing Miller noticed the dancers learn is how to accept criticism.
“As a team, dancing in unison is the goal to our performances and this means there is a lot of critiquing that happens during practice,” she said. “Learning how to take criticism and use those critiques and corrections to make yourself better can be used in so many different situations in life.”
Stille graduated from Storm Lake High School in 2011 where she was a four-year dance team member. She continued with the dance team for two years at Iowa Central Community College and at Buena Vista University, where she earned a business marketing degree in 2016.
“The best part of being associated with the dance team is the character of the dancers and the reputation the team has because of it,” said Stille, whose day job is as a marketing associate at L & G Products in Storm Lake. “Everywhere we go, whether it be a restaurant, competition or community event, the girls receive compliments on their respect and politeness.”
Stille acknowledged her first year as St. Mary’s dance coach has been “one to remember.”
“I could not be more proud to call myself their coach,” she said. “I look forward to continuing to push the team to be the best they can be and to growing the program into something to be proud of.”