New program introduces sixth grade athletes to the growing Edina dance community.
Edina Public Schools recently added the Middle School Dance Club to its already robust Community Education programs. Its inaugural season wrapped up in January, with a performance at the Edina Dance Team Invitational.
Kristin Biwan, head coach and Community Education facilities scheduler, is ecstatic to introduce sixth graders to the dance team through the formation of a program that prepares them to join the high school dance team in seventh grade. In her 11 seasons as head coach, the dance team has grown from 30 athletes to 70. Biwan is quick to credit the growth to the dedication and tight-knit friendships formed among dancers and the fervent support of devoted parents, alumni and the Edina community.
When Biwan brought the idea of starting a dance club for sixth graders to her coaching team, Victoria McNamara, who has more than 40 years of dance, teaching and choreography experience, enthusiastically volunteered. In her 10th season of Edina Dance Team coaching, McNamara recognizes the excitement and anticipation the younger middle school athletes feel to start dancing and get a taste for the dance team.
The Middle School Dance Club is open to all sixth graders, with a modest time commitment to practice one morning per week from late October to early January. Dancers develop techniques and skills used at the high school level to prepare them if they choose dance team tryouts in spring or fall. They also learn a jazz routine and perform at the Edina Dance Team Invitational.
“This is a club to have fun, do some dancing, meet some friends and have a great time,” says McNamara, noting there’s no prior experience needed.
“This is really a ‘come feel it out’ opportunity, which is interesting and exciting because there are kids with dance experience and there are kids with no dance experience. Everyone progresses and learns—same skills, different levels.”
Biwan says sixth grade is optimal timing for developing as an athlete and for building confidence. “You’re learning your body and your skills, and you’re in a great development stage where you can learn new things.” Biwan says, “[McNamara] does such a great job with our seventh and eighth graders. This is a great opportunity for them to get to work with her at a sixth-grade level.”
The Edina Dance Team has one of the highest participation levels in the state, and Biwan appreciates the community’s support. “Be proud of these dancers who work so hard and are strong independent women,” Biwan says. “We’re trying to give them lessons for the future—not just their time in high school … We want to prepare them for life and try to help not only shape them into better dancers but also better human beings.”
Biwan notes that Middle School Dance Club “is another way to bring kids into this already big family that we have, and we want to make them a part of it.”
McNamara echoes that familial sensibility that develops among dancers. “We work really hard for that feeling of community,” she says. “We’re here for each other. It helps strengthen those friendships, and they learn how to treat each other and how to respectfully interact with each other.”