Lightning Dance Team wins 3rd straight state title
People can probably just go ahead and call Eastview’s high kick dance team a dynasty.
The Lightning has won the last three state Class AAA championships, four of the last five, and seven since 2004. That’s more than a run of good luck.
“Our expectations are high,” coach Jenny Raiche said. “We have competitive kids, and those are the kind of dancers we want. They know about our tradition and want to keep it going.”
On Saturday, the Lightning Dance Team won its third consecutive high kick title at Target Center in Minneapolis. Eastview scored 742 points out of a possible 800 and finished 23 points ahead of second-place Brainerd – a fairly wide margin in dance team scoring. Burnsville, the other South Suburban Conference team to make the Class AAA high kick finals, placed third.
Eastview was the first-place team on every judge’s scorecard in Saturday night’s finals.
The Lightning Dance Team’s musical selection was “Bolero,” a piece Raiche said she had been wanting to use for years. In the past she hesitated because of the heavily technical dance accompaniment the music required. This year, she thought she had a team with the talent and experience to take it on.
“The technicians (at Target Center) said we were either brilliant or crazy to do it,” Raiche said.
The Lightning Dance Team started working on the routine during the holiday break in December and January. Unlike many teams that perform the same routine at competitions throughout the season, Eastview did two.
“We had one routine that we did during the conference season in November and December,” Raiche said. “Then over the holiday break we spend a lot of time learning the new routine.”
Switching routines in midseason helps keep the dancers mentally fresh and engaged, Raiche said. “Burnsville is the only other team I know that does it,” she added.
Eastview won the Section 1AAA championship, but the Lightning’s coach said she knew the team had not peaked. There were some points to clean up, and Raiche said she thought the dancers could build a little more endurance.
Eastview easily qualified for the state finals, then put on its best performance of the season. “We didn’t have a line out of place or a missed kick,” Raiche said. “We couldn’t have asked for more.”
There were nine seniors on the winning Eastview team, two of whom, Rachel Rudolph and Melanie Wagner, were nominated for the all-tournament squad.
All nine of them had to work their way up through the Eastview program, which also has junior varsity and B-squad teams. “They all had to work their way up from being on the JV as sophomores,” Raiche said.
In the jazz division competition held Feb. 15, Eastview finished third behind Maple Grove and Wayzata.
Maple Grove and Wayzata have dominated the Class AAA jazz division. One of those schools has won the state title every year since 2004. Eastview placed third for the fifth consecutive year.
“Maple Grove and Wayzata are powerful jazz programs, and we’re the ones trying to give them a run for their money,” Raiche said. “And this year, I think we did. There was only an eight-point difference between first and third.”
Ellen Kenney and Mikayla Larson were Eastview’s selections on the all-tournament team.
Asked what it will take for Eastview jazz team to move past the state’s top two, Raiche said, “we’ll be going through videos all summer trying to figure that out.”
From talking to judges, Raiche said it appears that they’re looking for more highly refined dance skills. In the past, the Eastview jazz team has focused more on choreography, and the coach said a change in approach might be necessary.
Eastview won a state jazz division title in 2000, two years before Raiche became head coach.
“At the time, Eastview was still a new school, but I thought there was a lot of potential here,” she said.
Over the last decade she’s been proven right time and again.
The Blazettes returned to the state awards podium in high kick, taking third place.
Burnsville has won 10 state championships overall, but this was the team’s highest finish since its last state title in 2008. The Blazettes have qualified for the state meet 36 of the last 37 years.
Jamie Krallman and Nicole Obregon were Burnsville’s representatives on the high kick all-tournament team.
Burnsville qualified for state in the jazz division for the eighth consecutive year but did not reach the finals. The 12 state qualifiers competed in preliminaries Feb. 15, with six teams chosen to compete in the finals later that day.
Eagan was one of three South Suburban Conference schools – Eastview and Burnsville being the others – to send teams to the state dance team competition in both divisions. The Wildcats’ jazz team won the Section 3AAA championship for the first time, edging two other teams in tiebreaker.
Neither Eagan team, however, was able to reach the finals. The jazz team was seventh after preliminaries, and the top six advance to the finals. Eagan was 10th in the high kick preliminaries.
The Apple Valley AVaires qualified for the state high kick tournament for the third consecutive year but did not advance to the finals. They were one of seven teams from the South Suburban Conference to reach the Class AAA meet in high kick or jazz. SSC teams took almost one-third of the available Class AAA spots at the state competition.