Dance Toward Success

Edina Dance Team seeks to distinguish itself as a strong competitor
The Edina Dance Team advanced to the final rounds at its first Minnesota State Jazz Dance Tournament appearance

You can call the Edina Dance Team a number of things: hard working, talented, determined. But whatever you do, don’t call them the Hornettes.

While both the Edina Dance Team and the Hornettes are dance teams at Edina High School, the Hornettes are a fall performance team, steeped in tradition, which you see during halftime shows at football games. The 15-year-old Edina Dance Team is a winter competitive team that competes weekly against schools including Minnetonka, Wayzata, Eden Prairie and Hopkins. And over the past few years, the Edina Dance Team has been amping up its reputation as a competitor.

“Starting four years ago, I think there was a shift in the mindset for the team, and the program,” says Kristin Luth, a former University of Minnesota dance team member and head coach for Edina High School’s dance team. Luth, along with assistant coach Cortney Colich, JV coach Lauren Hutchison, and freshman coach Emily Heinen, are leading the girls to not only do well in competitive dance meets, but also win them —something that used to be just a dream.

The current senior class started that trend when they realized the extent of the work needed to win. “I think that definitely having them as coaches really showed me that I need to work ten times harder than the teams that are good to meet the standards of where they are,” says Emma Caris, senior and captain of the varsity team.

The shift in the mindset of the team came when girls stopped seeing the activity as a social event, started caring more about the outcome of meets, and took practice seriously, Luth says. “We got more talent as more girls came out for the team, as more saw that these girls really cared. That the team really worked hard to do well in competition.”

Competition season runs from November to February, and this year, the team had more hope than ever to make it to state finals, says Colich. The girls reached and beat this goal with a 4th place award in the state jazz large school AAA division.

The maturity of the team is apparent, as today’s seniors talk of overcoming challenges and making better use of their time in each practice and competition. Team member Isabelle Beddor, also a senior and varsity captain, explains that it is about “taking each opportunity we get to do it one time better and take it one step further.”

Some might think of dance as a hobby, but it is clear that these girls are tough. “These students are athletes,” Luth says, and they push “just as hard as the hockey team and the basketball team pushes.”

The girls practice six days a week, around 14 hours total, and it’s high-endurance training. “They have to push themselves past their limits and look like they’re having fun doing it,” Heinen says.

As hard as they work, the girls still manage to have fun—and the benefits of being on a team as tight-knit as this one far outweigh the amount of sweat spilled. “I’ve met some of my best friends on this team,” Ava Diaz, senior and captain of the junior varsity team, says. And the rush of seeing a crowd clap for you is unbeatable.

“I really like that feeling you get when you walk off or you hit your final pose,” Beddor says. Kate Balke, also a senior and varsity captain, agrees, adding that it’s about “feeling accomplished after each performance.”

While this year’s competition season is over, the coaches are always working on the team’s future goals. Hutchison says she “would love the numbers to grow.” The team is larger than it once was, but schools like Eden Prairie are still powerhouses when it comes to team size and number of supporting spectators. In a sport like this, having a large audience is key to a team’s success, Heinen says. “Dance is a spectator sport, and the girls feed off of that.”

Mainly, though, Luth says, the goal is for the girls “to understand that when you put the work in, results happen.”