January 27, 2021

Shining through adversity

Colfax-Mingo and Baxter Dance Teams compete, place at State Dance

A passion for dance. That is what drove the Colfax-Mingo Dance Team through the pandemic adversity and helped them place in both of their routines at state competition for the first time in seven years.

In her first year, coach Cassidy Booher couldn’t be more proud of her team. The 12 girls who practiced with masks on, virtually and always six feet apart took each hurdle in stride and even when traveling to compete at state was no longer an option, they rallied and made the best of the hand they were dealt.

“The success this team has had is outstanding,” Booher said. “It feels good to be a placing team again and I look forward to seeing where we go from here. This year’s success would not have been possible if even one of those girls was not on this team. Each and every one of my girls helped pave our way to success.”

The team competed in Class I Contemporary and Class V Pom at the Iowa State Dance Team Association State Competition receiving Division 1 ratings for both routines. In contemporary, the team placed fourth out of eight teams and in pom they placed fourth out of 11 teams.

“Unfortunately, we were doing virtual learning when we were to be competing at the State competition, but we were very fortunate to have been able to virtually submit. Andrea Dana and the ISDTA association worked tirelessly to make it possible for as many schools to compete in the safest way for everyone, no matter their situation,” Booher said. “Initially, my girls were heartbroken that ISDTA was going to be different and they weren’t going to get that State experience, especially my seniors. Competing at the ISDTA competition is unlike any other and it’s a feeling to have to experience to understand. My girls of course were disappointed, but they were very grateful that we could still compete virtually. Their attitudes, respect and flexibility through this entire season have truly blown me away and I couldn’t be any prouder of these fine young ladies.”

Six soloist also submitted routines with each dancer receiving a Division 1 rating. Individually, sophomore Brooke Pease placed sixth and freshman Ashton Byal placed seventh out of 69 girls.

Leading up to state, the dancers had to prepare in new a different ways to stay within protocol. Booher said formations had to be six feet apart and there was no touching allowed as apart of the choreography.

“We are typically able to perform our State routines a few times before the ISDTA competition, however, we were unable to do so to keep everyone safe,” Booher said. “During practice, they are to be six feet apart whether they were sitting before practice, stretching or dancing. We had to have quite a few virtual practices when we went to virtual learning for a few weeks. It’s very interesting having a dance practice over Zoom.”

Even with the new challenges, the dancer rose above while preparing for competition. While the pandemic has brought sadness and fear, it has also given the opportunity to show the best in people and just how hard they can work, even in the toughest conditions.

“These girls are some of the hardest working young women I have ever met. I hope they realize that their success at State was because of how hard they have worked all season,” Booher said. “I want them to be great dancers of course, but what’s more important to me is that they are even better women and teammates. We are a family and if you came to watch any practice the past few months, you would get that feeling from them. I truly do not have enough ways to say how proud of these girls I am. Each of these wonderful young ladies brings something special to the team. I am absolutely honored to be their coach.”

The Baxter Dance Team also competed at state, but in their case, they were able to attend the competition in person Nov. 17. The team brought three dances including a Pom routine, novelty and hip hop number. All three dances received Division 1 ratings along with novelty taking third place and hip hop bringing home the fourth place trophy.

“I am so very proud to be the Baxter Bolts Dance Team Coach and our season. I feel that this season taught our team to deal with unknowns and strive for their personal best, but also to come together,” coach Renee Aker said.

Like their neighbors, Baxter had to adhere to COVID protocols put out by ISTDA. At the state competition, which was extended to three days, the competition looked different then in years past.

“Teams were discouraged from staying and watching, we were asked to come perform and leave. Everyone entering was required to wear a mask. Dancers wore masks right up until they took the floor and had to mask up again following their performance,” Aker said. “Judging was done virtually, the amount of spectators in person was not near what it normally is. It was live streamed. Because teams were able to submit their dances virtually, awards were done on Dec. 5 live. That was different not knowing the results but waiting.”

Even through all of the changes and adjustments, the same work goes into making the dances the best they can be.

“Dance is a sport that sometimes people don’t realize watching the final performance the emotional commitment that may go into that 2 minute performance,” Aker said. That performer may have spent hours, days, weeks and months not only practicing for that one performance, but having people critique, give feedback and pick apart how they are doing every single move, holding their arm, their expression, their foot, the extension of their muscle, the timing.”

The team also earned the 2021 Distinguished Academic Award for team with grade point averages between 3.5 and 4.0 and the 2021 Outstanding Academic Achievement Award for the team have a GPA of 3.94.

Freshman Morgan Ratliff competed a solo at the competition receiving a Division 1 rating.

Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or jpierson@newtondailynews.com