Dexter Dance Team Semifinalists at Nationals

By: Seth Kinker,

The Dexter Dance team has been around for a while but last weekend, from Feb. 1-3,  the team was a semifinalist in two categories, jazz and pom, at the 2019 National Dance Team Championship in Orlando, Florida at the Walt Disney World Resort. 

The semifinalist placings in those two categories are the furthest the team has ever advanced in its history and it’s done so despite fielding a smaller team than most with just eight members. 

The Dexter Dance team in Orlando, Florida for the 2019 Nationals. Photo used with permission of the Dexter Dance team.

Different than other high school sports, there is no offseason, in addition to performing at Dexter football and basketball games the team has competitions in July, November, January, and March and that’s not including nationals.

In order to qualify for nationals, team members must achieve a certain rank or receive a certain amount of ribbons through a four-day event held in July. 

This year nationals had a new category, game day, in addition to hip hop, jazz, and pom. Each team chooses two categories to compete in and the Dexter Dance team chose jazz and pom for a couple of reasons. For one, they have experience competing in jazz, having reached semifinals in the jazz category last year. 

“I specifically wanted jazz and pom this year because one, I think they looked more confident doing those and two, those really prepare you to do sidelines,” said second year head coach Leah Barrett. “Pom for example, that whole style is what we do on the sidelines. Getting those high schoolers engaged in that early helps them prepare for college.  When you audition for college (dance teams) there are a lot of dancers that do not know anything about pom because they came from the dance studio world.” 

Barrett said the reason for their best placing in team history was simple. 

“Determination,” said Barrett. “We had an up and down season this year, a lot of people got sick or injured, taking them out of practice. It was really nice to see such maturity develop in young kids this year. Their maturity developed so fast, they were on the ball, things were changing so fast because people were sick, and you could tell how badly they wanted it because of how they worked through those trials and tribulations.” 

Barrett told The Sun Times she was proud of her team because when you’re a smaller team, everything is under that much more of a microscope when you’re performing. She noticed an increased level of wanting more, that they weren’t satisfied even after the semifinal placing in jazz last year. 

Although one of the smaller teams in its history, Barrett told The Sun Times she’s heard whispers of more people coming to tryout this year, held annually in April. As the team looks to build on its best placing ever, she hopes they keep the same determination they brought into this year.

“I’m hoping that they keep pushing and I’m hoping that they stay confident in themselves,” said Barrett on the team moving forward. “I tell them all the time ‘I don’t care how you place as long as it’s the best time you’ve done the dance than you did before and that you’re a better than the person you were yesterday.’ I’m hoping every aspect of that motto applies to next year. They develop as people, as dancers, and as a team. Whatever that placement means doesn’t necessarily matter as long as they’re giving everything to developing.” 

Members of the Dexter Dance team are Noah Rosenzweig (senior), Jordan Dicks (captain, junior), Natalie Johnson (junior),  Elle Walters (junior), Charlotte Hawley (sophomore), Rachel Dunklee (sophomore), Samantha Feist (sophomore), and Olivia Steinert. 

Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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