8 Count Audio | Minnesota’s All-State Celebration
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Minnesota’s All-State Celebration

by Norm Ramil / 8CA.music.person & dance.fan

How do you want to end your season?

A precious few get to lift a trophy. Then comes the wrap-up…a few more weeks of basketball routines, some gifts on senior night, getting dressed up for the team banquet, turning in your uniforms.

Minnesota has an extra step before its season closes, but it’s up to the teams and coaches, not the state league. Our friends at MADT (the Minnesota Association of Dance Teams) throw a huge, two-day celebration about a month after the state high school league’s official championship weekend.

I asked MADT President Allison Bridges about this event’s unique spot on the calendar. “The weekend itself was really constructed to deal with time constraints and weather! It’s difficult to find time in the spring to get coaches together AND have an event where we need volunteers to make it work and coaches present to recognize their awards.”

I can vouch for that. Single-digit temperatures ruled the 2016 State competition in the middle of February, and walking around downtown Minneapolis was painful. Having the All-State weekend about a month later gives the weather a slight chance to be more reasonable, especially with dancers traveling from around the state. Last year, Minnesota’s All-State dancers got super lucky with 70-degree temps under sunny skies in mid-March!

The party starts on a Friday night in mid-March when the state’s dance coaches get together to celebrate and recognize each other’s hard work and dedication. Saturday belongs to the dancers as they rehearse before the big show at night. MADT President Allison Bridges writes that “Having everything all together gets us higher attendance at BOTH events and really makes the weekend a complete ‘package’ and…it’s lots of fun!”

It’s a full-fledged awards ceremony at the Friday night Coaches’ Celebration. “We have awards for all 3 classes (A, AA, and AAA), Head Coach, Assistant Coach, and one for Rookie Coach,” explains Allison. MADT also presents a sportsmanship award to one team from each class. Occasionally this ceremony even includes the honor of a coach being elected into the MADT Hall of Fame.

Minnesota’s class AAA High Kick All-State dancers. Each class and category gets its own special, year-end performance at MADT’s All-State night

The big spectacle, of course, is the All-State Dance event the next evening. These girls get nominated by their coaches and have to share a video of their own competition routine from that season. A volunteer panel picks the best group of candidates that reflect a good match of style and skill levels. They strike a balance between selecting a big group while keeping the event’s quality level nicely elevated.

How can you get hundreds of dancers on the same page? I had the honor to help edit the music for last year’s All-State Dance, so I got a glimpse of this unique process.

Once selected, an All-State dancer learns two dances via YouTube. She’s got to nail down the choreo for her class & category dance (in Minnesota, their schools divide into class A, AA, and AAA for dance while each class has jazz and kick categories). She also needs to learn the finale dance where each All-State dancer hits the floor for a huge show.

That makes for plenty of entertainment for parents and friends, who get to see 6 dances before the gigantic all-state dance. “The event has grown from one that honored 36 student-athletes at a basketball game to one that fills a high school gymnasium every year,” Allison tells me. “This incredible event is self-funding and happens at no cost to the participants.”

Legit incredible. Here’s what I saw a year ago. About a month after watching a phenomenal state competition in downtown Minneapolis, we headed back there to check out the All State event (we did the music for the finale). And I have to admit–it filled a need for me personally. We just don’t have anything like this in Illinois!

We basked in the highly improbable and beautiful weather as we drove to Shakopee High School, out in the far southwestern ‘burbs of Minneapolis. We set up our meet & greet table early. Later the Minneosta Vikings Cheerleaders set up next to us while the state’s judge’s association set up nearby.

These All State dancers celebrate the end of Minnesota’s dance season about a month after State

The sounds of final rehearsal leaked out of the main gym while volunteers set up dinner for the dancers. Parents soon lined up at the ticket gate. What started as a healthy crowd for a post-season event soon turned into a flood of dance fans, proud parents wanting to see one final uniformed performance by their favorite dancer.

The gym itself was as crowded as any other weekend competition. The announcer introduced each All State dancer as she hit the floor with a So You Think You Can Dance-style intro combo. Next up were the six class & category dances–a kick and a jazz number for AAA, AA, and A. Each dancer had on her own team’s competition costume, and it was cool to recognize some distinctive outfits that I remembered from the state competition a month earlier.

I don’t have the numbers, but I’ll say that it looked like hundreds of dancers filled the floor. As each wave entered the gym, it just didn’t seem possible to fit in another group, but the volunteers and choreographers made it happen.

I did my best to not focus on my music (usually I can’t help but listen for any little mistakes and how things translated from my studio to the acoustics of a big, crowded gym). Actually, this was easy, because the sheer spectacle of watching so many of Minnesota’s best dancers doing a single routine was kind of jaw-dropping. Sure, it wasn’t gonna be a precision-fest. It didn’t have to be. This was sheer celebration.

“I think everyone enjoys having a celebration in March after we’ve ‘recovered’ from the intensity of State,” MADT’s Allison Bridges tells me. “It’s a nice way to wrap up the season!”

The final product looked spectacular, and I bet the dancers and their families walked away feeling this was the way to cap off their dance season. It definitely says a lot about the dance culture in that state, along with the unity and strength of M.A.D.T. Most impressive is how this event shows off that there’s more to the end of the season than just handing out trophies…there’s a time and a place for everyone to celebrate everyone, together.

All summer 8 Count Audio looks at how Minnesota does dance. Coming up: a closer view of a Minnesota dance team’s season, their 2 categories, and M.A.D.T.