March 05, 2021

KICK IT INTO HIGH GEAR: Three Pacesetters join 2021 All-lowa Honor Dance Team

NHS dance team’s annual winter show to be held Feb. 13 with some restrictions

Three members of the Newton Pacesetters — senior Morgan Linahon, sophomore Libby Shores and freshman Brooke Linahon — have been chosen to perform with the 2021 All-Iowa Honor Dance Team next month at Hy-Vee Hall, coach Graham Sullivan told Newton News in an interview last week.

Hundreds of dancers throughout the state make up the All-Iowa Honor Dance Team, which is known for its stunning performances during the Iowa Girls’ State Basketball Tournament. Six Pacesetters tried out for the honor dance team, which had to reduce its squad because of social distancing rules.

Sullivan said, “I think there’s 500 kids that try out and then there’s like 300 that make it normally, and then they jam-pack them all on the gym floor — so, obviously, we can’t do that.”

Kathy Enyart, of the Iowa State Dance & Drill Team Association (ISDTA), said in a Jan. 10 letter that due to the uncertainty of the team being allowed to dance in person March 4-6 at Grand View University and Wells Fargo Arena, they “are moving to a new plan.”

Dancers will have to be taught the routines and then rehearse, perform and record the final product all in one day: Feb. 22 at Hy-Vee Hall.

“They just didn’t feel they could count on us being allowed in to the tournament, and they’d rather just plan for it all right now,” Sullivan said. “ISDTA has been really forward thinking on a lot of things … We’re just happy ISDTA had enough sense to do it the best way possible.”

Also keeping to tradition is the Newton Pacesetters’ Winter Show, an annual event to showcase the team’s and area dance studios’ efforts the past year. This year’s show begins Feb. 13 at the Newton High School, but Sullivan noted there are going to be some changes because of the pandemic.

Unlike previous years, the high school dance team was not able to organize a Jr. Pacesetter Clinic, which would have taught young dancers routines to perform at the show. Sullivan is also unsure how the spectator situation is going to pan out, but the team wants to allow as many people as they can and still be safe.

Which means, if there are spectators, they will probably be asked to wear face coverings and socially distance.

Other traditions are unaffected by the pandemic, such as the “dads dance.”

“And then the dancers will do their state routines and their routines they learned throughout the year, and then our soloists will perform as well,” Sullivan said.

Pacesetters take home trophies in state dance competition

In December, the Pacesetters secured fifth place finishes in state for their pom (Class XI) and jazz (Class V) routines. According to results from the ISDTA, the Newton dance squad ranked fourth in “Large School Kick” and second in color guard (Class II).

ISDTA also awarded Pacesetter Michelle Cox fifth place for “Large School Color Guard” in the state solo championship.

By the time the Pacesetters were to perform at the ISDTA state championships, the Newton Community School District announced all in-person instruction and participation in extracurricular activities had been cancelled. Jasper County had surpassed its 20% positivity rate threshold for COVID-19 cases.

“We went to 100% remote (learning), which was a total bummer,” Sullivan said. “That’s the one thing they work for. Other sports have a basketball game on Tuesdays and Fridays or a football game every single Friday. At least they have five or 10 different games or activities they can go to. We have one.”

Sullivan, who is also a member of the school board, doesn’t blame the district for transitioning to fully remote learning. It was the right call, she said.

Regardless, Newton was still able to compete in the state dance competition by submitting videos of the Pacesetters’ routines to ISDTA. Sullivan said the team recorded its routines one day before the district went fully remote. Dancers were told to go home, grab their costumes and then come back to the high school.

“It took us probably about five hours to do it,” Sullivan said. “We were at the high school until 10 o’clock.”

The Pacesetters submitted three team routines and six soloist performances — Brooke Linahon, Morgan Linahon, Ella Price, Emmalie Russell, Libby Shores and Addy Terpstra — for state, all of which received Division 1 ratings from judges.

An awards ceremony was held both electronically and in-person. Sullivan said dancers were excited to bring home two, fifth-place trophies for the high school.

Newton Pacesetters were also given the Sportsmanship Award from ISDTA this year. Sullivan said the award is given to one school among the 340 that compete. The reason Newton was the recipient of this year’s honor was because of its past role as host school of the ISDTA state solos.

However, the pandemic spurred organizers to lump the state team competitions and state solo performances into one place: Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

Playing host to state solos acted as a strong fundraiser, too; Sullivan said almost $12,000 was raised from concessions sales the previous school year. Since the new location worked so well, last year was likely the final time Newton would host. Sullivan sees the award as a “thank you” to Newton for hosting the event.

“We appreciate it just because it’s a huge honor,” Sullivan said.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or