Since it began about five years ago, the Central dance program has seen a gradual increase in the number of participating girls and in the quality of its performances.
A relatively young and inexperienced squad hopes to continue that trend this year. After losing five dedicated seniors to graduation last season, the team is rebuilding with nine returning dancers and 10 new faces. While there has been turnover, those 19 individuals represent the largest team Central has fielded to date.
“Nineteen is a good number. We have a lot of younger girls that we’re excited about, having them come out for the team,” said Raiderettes head coach Pam Johnson. “We’re trying to build it. The past few years the numbers have gone up a little bit, from 15 to 18 to 19, which is the most ever.”
Last season the Raiderettes took second place in the four-team Minnesota River Conference in the jazz category, and third place in the kick competition.
“This year our plan is to do better than that,” said head danceline coach Pam Johnson. “We actually have a really strong jazz team. Our kick team is young and traditionally we’re not as good in kick. But we’re hoping to build there and really do a good job. It’s kind of a building year for us in kick, but I think we’ll do really well in jazz.”
Johnson explained that while many of the team members have danced the jazz style before, there is no true feeder program for the kick squad.
“The technique for kick is something they’re not used to, but a lot of our girls are really good in jazz,” she said.
This year’s team includes just two seniors, Captain Emma Schmidt and Hope Robertson. Also serving as captains this year are juniors Marysa Murphy and Nicole Johnson. Students serving as advisors and choreographers for the JV jazz squad are Robertson, Julia Koehnen and Hayley Skaaland.
The team will be dancing about twice a week, once in exhibition during halftime of home basketball games and once in actual competition. This Saturday, Dec. 8 is the season opening competition at Hutchinson.
Central will host a home meet on Jan. 11, and the Raiderettes are putting on a camp for youth as a part of that day.
“That’s a new, exciting thing. The kids will get to dance at the intermission of our home meet,” said Johnson.
Another fun feature of this year’s schedule is a guy/girl dance at halftime of a girls’ basketball game later this year.
“They’re pulling in some of the guys who go to school here, so that will be kind of fun, kind of crazy,” said Johnson. “Those are the two big things that the girls are really excited about.”
The Raiderettes will have a different look with new uniforms this year, and will be dancing to “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” from Moulin Rouge for their jazz routine. The kick team will perform to “Now You’re Gone” by Bass Hunter. Members of the JV jazz team will dance to “Black and Gold.”
Overall, Johnson and assistant coach Angie Honkomp said they are looking forward to the opportunity to work with a number of newcomers and were enthusiastic about tackling the challenge of continuing to build the program.
“There are a few girls who have never danced since they were little. They’ve done other sports. So it’s fun to see them try something new, and some of them are doing a fantastic job,” said Johnson. “We’re excited. We think it’s going to be a great year.”