by Taimoor Satti
Photography by Janssen Photography
Dance is a movement, it’s a movement rhythmically to music and involves a set sequence. Most of the people can move their body, but not everybody can dance. Moreover, not everybody can make it to state competitions in dance.
The Pelican Rapids High School Dance Team, established back in 2003, is known as the Valkyries. Since then the school has worked hard by providing enough resources and helping or motivating the team. The Valkyries dance team has advanced to the state tournament 10 of the 12 years they have had a team either in Jazz or Kick, or in both.
During the 2015-2016 season, the Valkyries advanced to state competition held at Target Field in Minneapolis. There were total of 12 teams at the competition. The Valkyries ended up coming in seventh in the competition and were close to making the final round. The final round consists of the six best teams. Senior Emily Monson remarked, “We were disappointed, it’s really hard to go that far and come back with only memories.”
Monson is a senior at Pelican Rapids High School. She has been a member of the dance team the last five years. It’s her second year as a team captain and third year as a Jazz choreographer. “Well, I was chosen as a captain by my teammates. They think I can lead and encourage people to become better.”
Monson was three years old when she got involved in dance. More specifically when she used to go and see her older sister performing in different competitions. “I went to all her competitions and enjoyed them. I realized people expect you to do well and ended up deciding to go for it,” Monson said.
For some people dance is just to move your body and to make yourself happy but for Monson it is something more than that, “It’s challenging, and I take it as a challenge personally and for the team. It’s not easy, especially when you are dancing in a group. You have to go along with the flow, which is the difficult part, but if you try I am sure you can do it,” Monson said.
Monson was the captain when Pelican Rapids dance team went to state for Jazz back in February 2016.
“It was exciting, it seems that we have worked hard this time and deserve to show people what we are capable of,” she said.
A team does not only perform well if the team has good quality players, but a team under a strong supervision makes a huge difference on and off the floor. Emily Evenson, an alumna, is the Head Coach for the Pelican Rapids Valkyries. “I danced on the same team, I was a freshman when the team was established and stayed on the team all four years of high school,” Evenson said.
Evenson feels a strong connection with the team and trusts in her players. 2015-2016 season was the first season for Evenson as the Valkyries head coach – a season in which the Valkyries were able to book a spot at the state meet. Now in her second season, Evenson continues to show her love and passion for the team by helping them seek another trip to the state competition.
Monson said, “We all were happy when we got to know that we are going to state, it felt as if we have accomplished our team goal and I give a lot credit to our coach.” She says it was important to qualify because they weren’t able to make it to the state a year before.
Monson is the choreographer for Jazz the last three consecutive years, “I like jazz because it’s difficult and I like the turns and jazz moves. They are just much more pleasing to me compared to any other dance,” Monson said.
Monson has a saying, “Younger ones don’t have experience, but the more you put into dance the better dancer you become.” She also says, it’s fun to help the younger team members develop. Coach Evenson says every team has a good or a bad day and everyone wants to have happy day, that’s the toughest part because every team is working to achieve the same results.
Dance is a different sport, and as competitive as any other sport, “Our sport is very unique. We only get one chance or one shot to try. It’s not like playoffs. If we make it that’s good, and if not, you are done,” Evenson said.
Pelican Rapids Valkyries second team captain is senior Mason Thornton. It’s her fifth year on the team. Thornton is the team captain for the first time, “I really like being a captain, my team thought I would be a good leader and they believe in me,” Thornton said. Besides being team captain, she is also a choreographer and it’s her first year designing and directing routines used in dances and performances. She likes both Jazz and Kick, but she is more into jazz because of the jazz moves.
Coach Evenson believes both her captains are amazing, “I think the captains of our team are true leaders, respected by teammates, and know what they are doing.” Evenson also noted, “We can coach and tell them, but players need someone else whom they can follow or listen to. That’s where our captains play vital role in leading the others around them.”
Thornton wasn’t a captain last year, but she worked so hard as a team member to make it to the state. Setting up goals and achieving them is a big thing for many people and this was the case with Thornton.
“It was super exciting, waiting under the tunnel, waiting for your team name to be called. Performing under the lights in front of so many people is a once in a lifetime experience,” Thornton said.
Learning is a part of life, you start doing something and by the end of it, you end up learning something. Thornton is happy that she was the part of the team, she says, she had learned how to work with others, improved her work ethic, and professionalism.
The connection and understanding between the team members played a vital role in terms of qualifying for the state and doing good overall. “We are really close, like a family and are always together all day long except Sunday. We have a strong connection in between us and having that connection is one reason of our success,” Thornton said.
It’s never easy to be a full-time student and be an athlete at the same time, especially for seniors Monson and Thornton. They have used their time wisely, finished with the homework well before the deadline, stayed focused and on top of the things, making it possible for both dance team captains to perform well in the classroom, and on the stage.
Monson and Thornton will graduate in the spring of 2017. Monson is hoping to study Elementary Education, but won’t leave dance. She wants to be a coach sometime later in her life.
This season will be last season for both the senior captains. Their team consists of 31 dancers – most of whom are fresh faces. “We have a bigger group this year. They are all hardworking. It’s a pretty young team,” Thornton said. “We pushed each other really hard to give their best and try to develop each other,” she added.
The Valkyries have participated in three competitions so far this season. The first one in Detroit Lakes on December 3rd, the second at home in Pelican Rapids on the 8th, and a third in Albany on the 10th. “The Pelican Rapids one was very good, or I would say best one, because we did really well in that competition,” Monson said.
Coach Evenson was very proud of the last year leaders, “I was excited because we had strong positive leaders last year and that was our biggest strength.” She hopes to have similar results this season. The names of the teams who qualify for the state competition will be announced on February 4th 2017. Evenson noted, “I see a good young set of dancers in front of me this season and all have worked hard and are ready for the upcoming challenges.” SV