Update on Tuesday, February 21 – The Pantherettes received 10th place in both jazz and high kick in the state tournament. Congratulations on a great season, Pantherettes!
February 16, 2017 – On Saturday, February 11 the Spring Lake Park High School dance team won the Section 3AAA championship in both jazz and high kick and earned a trip to the state tournament for the 13th consecutive year.
“Although the team dynamic is different each year, the legacy remains,” said junior captain Lindsay Mork. “The history of the Pantherettes has been full of success, which is a great motivator in the current and future endeavors of the team.”
The varsity program consists of only two seniors, but boasts many experienced dancers, including four 8th graders and three 7th graders. Veteran dancers said it’s the history of the Pantherettes that helped bond the team and create a sense of unity.
“Our team is deeply connected to our history,” said senior captain Marisa Antell. “There is such a sense of pride that comes with being a part of the legacy that the SLPDT has become.”
Coach Tia Bont is in her third year as head coach of the Pantherettes and said they started the season feeling more prepared than ever before.
“We had beyond dedicated veterans, most of whom had spent their entire time in the program under my direction,” Bont said. “They knew the expectations, our high standard that everyone is expected to adhere to, and were hungry for success. We also had a handful of talented rookies join our program.”
Having a solid start to the season allowed the Pantherettes to do a few things a little different.
“This year we tried a new strategy: learning two jazz dances at the same time so we could perform them interchangeably,” Mork said. “This gave us the advantage of creating ‘plays,’ like in football or basketball. This was advantageous as it exposed us to different styles, seeing which we advanced in.”
The new strategy paid off as they performed their difficult and intense jazz routine to the song 7 Nation Army and their fun energetic high kick routine to the classic song Bohemian Rhapsody at the Section meet and won.
“Both our jazz and kick routines are difficult in technique and stamina,” said junior dancer Meghan Pederson. “They are challenging, but I believe what really makes them stand out is the fact that they are so much fun to perform!”
The Pantherettes’ season wasn’t without hiccups, though. They hit a bit of a burn-out in mid-January after not seeing improvement in their scores and Coach Bont decided to change their mentality in practice.
Bont asked the dancers to visualize the smells of the schools they were performing in, the wind that blows in the gyms and the colors of the bleachers. They had conversations about how they should feel and what they should think throughout the day. The team also thought of the mantra “Here for the Blue,” in reference to winning the blue first place medals, and even practiced standing in line for awards and who they would hug and in what order if they won.
“Everyone is constantly trying to be the best version of themselves and we all love to support and cheer each other on at every practice,” Pederson said. “We also have amazingly talented coaches who constantly support us and remind us that if we work hard, anything is possible.”
The mentality change allowed the Pantherettes to come out with confidence and high energy at the Section meet. Bont said the air was electric and you could see the philosophy of spirit and sportsmanship she has been instilling in her dancers the past three years.
“One of our main focuses is to create an environment where girls are actively learning how to be great people, as well as great athletes,” Antell said.
This is evident in the awards the Pantherettes have earned the past three years including the Most Spirited Team at camp, the Spirit Award at the Edina Invite and the AAA Sportsmanship award last year.
This week, the Pantherettes polished their dances, visualized performing at the Target Center and practiced standing in line for awards all in hopes to win the state championship.
“State is the last hoorah of the season, and a team can only hope to say goodbye to their routines proud, with a smile on their face,” Mork said.
Jazz: Friday, February 17, Spring Lake Park performs at 2:28 p.m., finals begin at 7:15 p.m.
High Kick: Saturday, February 18, Spring Lake Park performs at 3:30 p.m., finals begin at 7:15 p.m
Student tickets: $9
Adult tickets: $14
A fan bus is available through the SLP Athletic Department. Please contact them at 763-600-5149 before noon on Thursday, February 16.
If you can't make it to the Target Center, but still want to watch the Pantherettes in action, check out the live stream at Prep45.com.