Dance Team wins State Championship in Jazz


The BSM dance team won the Jazz event at this year’s State Championship.

Every year around Valentine’s Day—in the midst of a busy basketball season and before the well-documented Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) Boys’ Hockey State Tournament—another event takes center stage. Over two days, ladies from across the state descend on the Target Center in Minneapolis with a common goal in mind: to be crowned with dance team supremacy in both the Jazz and Kick events.

BSM’s own Knightettes are one of the school’s most successful teams, annually having both regular season and postseason success, usually ending in a state tournament run—and 2017 was no different. During senior captain Celia Fortney’s six years on the varsity team, the Knightettes have reached State all six times. “Out of every season, this has been my best. What set this season apart was that all of us were doing it for each other–not for the medal or for ourselves as individuals, but for the team,” Fortney said.  “Our season was very successful even though we didn’t win every meet. Expectations were to win [State in] Jazz, [but] we knew that going into it, there’d be a fight.”

On the morning of Friday, February 17, the Knightettes rose bright and early from their beds of the Loews Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. It all sounds very nice, and though they wouldn’t be attending school on this day, the next two days would be anything but easy for BSM’s beloved Dance Team. Hundreds of hours, and a whole season’s blood, sweat, tears, and hard work would culminate in four performances over the next 48 hours. For the rest of BSM, another week was coming to an end, and the weekend couldn’t come fast enough. For the Knightettes, it was State week.

Later that afternoon—after a 7:00am wake up followed by two-morning practices, and a run-through of their routine in front of all other competing teams—the Knightettes took to the hardwood of the Target Center in the preliminary round of the Jazz event. The team was looking to make their way to the Finals and dance for a State Championship. “I knew from the beginning our performance was going to something special. You could feel the energy and focus necessary for a good showing. We felt really confident after our dance, and we knew that we had a shot to win a championship,” junior captain Ava Smithmier said. The Knightettes made it through to the Finals, along with teams from Totino-Grace, Sartell-St. Stephen, Faribault, Mound Westonka, and Rocori.

Following their three-minute routine in the Jazz Prelims, the team would have to wait close to five hours to see the floor again. The Knightettes expected to make it through Prelims and onto the Finals, but as senior captain Morgan Hovanec explained, the time between the two rounds can be the difference between winning and losing. “Immediately after we learned we’d be dancing in the Finals, we went back to our hotel for a quick rest, re-did our hair and makeup, and then went back to Lifetime for another practice. We cleaned up our dance, practiced some turns, and we were ready to go for Finals. The extra practice helped us nail down the minute details that judges look for,” Hovanec said.

After more practice and hours of anticipation, it was time to dance in the Finals. The Knightettes danced fourth—after Rocori and before Totino-Grace. Dancing in her first State Tournament, sophomore Annabelle Hilson explained the team’s mentality and approach in such a high-pressure situation. “This was my first jazz performance ever, and it just happened to be on the biggest stage. I expected myself to be more nervous, but I actually remained pretty calm. I think the team’s mentality in approaching such a situation definitely helped. We stayed focused, and knew we had a job to do,” she said.

The group of twelve dancers—with representatives from each grade—dazzled the dance floor from start to finish. Dancing to Annie Lennox’s “Wonderful,” the Knightettes moved, leaped, and turned in unison—flawlessly executing a routine that took five months to perfect. “Walking off the floor after that performance was unbelievable. Nailing my final pose, and knowing that I did for the last time was surreal. I knew that whatever happened, we’d given everything we had,” senior captain Megan Benson said. The ladies left it all out on the floor, and now all was left to the judges.

In Dance Team, the scoring is used to determine placing is by way of a rank system. For the distribution of points, there are ten categories where a team can earn up to ten points in each, totaling 100 points. For the rank system, the judges rank each team where they believe each placed, whether it be first, second, third, fifth, etc. In the preliminary round, the Knightettes posted the top rank score of five, meaning that all five judges gave them the best performance.

This one felt different. I remember feeling that this was the last moment I’d have with my team–the last time I’d dance with them. I wouldn’t have wanted to end my sixth and final season any other way,

— Cici Fortney

Years of hard work, thousands of turns and a lifetime of memories all culminated at center court of the Target Center. First came the individual All-State awards, awarded to the best dancers of the Jazz portion. Fortney and sophomore Molly Segner took home All-State honors for the Knightettes. Next came the main event—the team awards.

In third, with a rank score of 16, came the Sabres from Sartell-St. Stephen. In second, with a rank score of 8, came the E’Gals from Totino-Grace—a team that bested the Knightettes in every competition this season. The 2017 Class AA State Jazz Champions, with a rank score of 6, were the Knightettes of BSM. “I was so nervous. The second and first place spots always come down to [Totino-Grace] and us. After they announced TG, I was relieved, and once they announced us—that was probably a defining moment in my life; I’ve never been happier,” junior Sarah Hansberry explained.

“The team from Benilde-St. Margaret’s,” the PA announcer’s voice boomed over the loudspeakers. Emotions that had been built up over a whole season in the fans, parents, and dancers all surfaced; the crowd roared, and the Knightettes embraced in arms as sisters reclaiming their crown for Jazz supremacy. “This one felt different. I remember feeling that this was the last moment I’d have with my team–the last time I’d dance with them. I wouldn’t have wanted to end my sixth and final season any other way,” Fortney said.

After another successful season, it’s clear that the Knightettes have cemented themselves as a team to beat in high school Jazz. For the seniors, the future may hold more dancing, or perhaps this was their last time lighting up the floor. Regardless, this is the story of the Knightettes, a team that battled with each other and for each other.  The quest for a State Championship is now complete.