A Look Behind the Pom Poms

MN dance team opens up about the busy schedule and hard work

Eden Loveridge, Staff Writer

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Practices held multiple times a week, numerous performances for school events, and at least 10 hours a week spent with a private dance company, may sound very overwhelming to the average teenager, but such is the life of a dance team member.

An award-winning dance team that is coached by sisters Mila O’Brien and Andrea Feltz, the dance team has long been an integral part of MN culture. However, for such a well known team, there is a lot about the Dance Team that remains unknown to most.

Junior Kayla Horan has been on the dance team for all three years of high school. She has placed at the national dance competition at Orlando, FL, and won the state dance competition, three times each.

“People don’t know how much time we take out of our lives to practice. Some people think we are a sideline type dance team, but we are really very serious about it,” Horan said.

The team practices together for an hour and a half on Mondays and Fridays, the girls take a private technique lesson on Tuesdays, and an additional practice is also held on most Sundays.

“This year we have learned truly what it means to work hard. Even though we didn’t win, we put so much into practice that we know we couldn’t have done much more. We put it all out on the dance floor,” Feltz said.

In addition to coming to all regularly scheduled practices and competitions, the seniors also put a considerable amount of time into creating the choreography the dance team performs at football games.

“For the football games, the seniors make the dances up on the spot, and we learn them in a week or two,” Horan said.

The seniors also are responsible for picking out the songs for the dances. Traditionally, they pick out the songs and remixes, while the coaches and choreographers help edit them to perfectly fit the music to the dances.

“It is something that the seniors really love doing, because they have been looking forward to it throughout their career on the team,” O’Brien said.

Along with dancing for the football and basketball games, the team also has dances set aside purely for Regionals, Nationals, and State competitions, two dances set aside, specifically.

Pom and Jazz are the two dances in which the dance team competes in their three competitions. These dances are created by the choreographers Dan Sapp and Morgan Burke.

Burke is a choreographer from Los Angeles who creates the Jazz dance for the team. Millard North combines his efforts with those of Sapp who designs the choreography for the Pom routine. Sapp a well-renowned choreographer based out of California that has the repertoire of success in the competitive dancing world.

“Dan Sapp is a big time pom choreographer. He choreographs a lot of big time dance teams. For instance, the University of Minnesota, one of the best dance teams in the country, that has literally won Pom nationals since the category has existed,” O’Brien said.

The combination of these two talented choreographers has really worked well for the team, as they place 4th in Pom and 3rd in Jazz at Nationals in Orlando this past January.

As apart of their show, the MNDT has glittery costumes created by the moms. Christy Wood, mother of two alumni and one current member of the team, helps a lot with the design and construction of the dance costumes. She even goes so far as to fly to Los Angeles annually to pick out the fabrics needed for the costumes.

“All three of her daughters have been on our team since 2009, and she has been doing our costumes ever since, kind of as a side job,” Andrea Feltz said.

The program contains a long held tradition of participation, dedication, and teamwork that fosters a family-like relationship between all who contribute.

“We are all very close to each other and we are all kind of our own support system. If you need help with something in your life, you can go into the dance team group chat and you can always find someone to help you. We are a really great support system,” Horan said.

These dancers believe that the amount of time dedicated, the relationships formed, and the choreography learned will affect the lives of these dancers far beyond the reaches of high school competitions.

“I think this will definitely influence my life beyond high school because, especially with our team, it teaches you confidence, obviously not cockiness, along with competitiveness, motivation, and hard work,” Horan said.

If anything, these girls know that what they do now, paves the way for the team’s success in the future. The quote “Legends live in the past and legacies live for the future,” has very much influenced how the girls and coaches view their team and their success.

“That is something we have always talked about on the team: leaving the legacy that every team we have ever had is leaving the building blocks from where we want the team to go,” Feltz said.

Every practice that is held, every dance that is completed, and every competition that is won is another building block in establishing the MN dance team as one to be reckoned with.

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A Look Behind the Pom Poms