Thirty-one Faribault Emeralds began practices for their 2019-20 season under the direction of a new head coach, Lisa Dahl.
Currently, dancers rehearse 16 hours a week to perfect their kick dance and choreograph their jazz routine. The intense practices are what they’re used to, according to Dahl.
“If we were going to take a day off, they would be worried,” she said.
Dahl and the assistant coaches selected the theme for the year, but that remains a secret until the dancers perform for the first time Dec. 2 at Faribault High School.
Lois Krinke, former head dance coach of the Emeralds for 23 years, led the team to 19 Big 9 Conference championships and 12 state championships. Although Dahl has big shoes to fill, she’s entered her new role with plenty of experience and the drive to keep the team as successful as ever before. She attributes that success largely to the dancers, who choreograph most of their performances themselves with tweaks from the coaches.
“They work really hard,” said Dahl. “I’ve been around a lot of dance teams, and they’re one of the hardest working teams I’ve coached. Their wanting to succeed gives them the drive and determination to succeed.”
Before accepting the position as head dance coach in April, Dahl served as an assistant coach for the Emeralds the last two years. She previously coached Lakeville and Cannon Falls and also started the Emeralds’ JV dance team, which she coached for 13 years. She’s also an Emeralds alumna.
When it comes to being the head coach, Dahl would rather focus on the dancers as a team, and her work with the assistant coaches, than talk about herself as an individual. Everything is a team effort, she said, not only for the dancers but for the coaches as well.
If asked about individual goals, the dancers aren’t quite sure how to answer. Senior Morgan Rist explained they focus more on developing team goals.
“My hope this year is that our team becomes more bonded together and dance as one on the floor,” said Brynn Whitten, FHS senior.
Madeline Casper, a senior, said she’d like the team to win state this year. Having placed third in the high kick category last year, it’s not an unrealistic goal. With such a strong concentration in kicking, she said jazz dances deserve more work. The team placed sixth at state last year, and this year she’d like the Emeralds to advance to at least fifth place.
Three assistant dance coaches join Dahl this year in her pursuit to lead the Emeralds to state. Like Dahl, Jill Walker, Stefanie Thomas and Samantha Pierce are Emeralds almuna. Walker and Thomas previously coached the Emeralds’ JV team, and Pierce is a recent college graduate coaching for the first time.
All four coaches recognize ways competitive dance has changed over the years. It’s faster, the theme is more prominent, and with more community support it’s more widely recognized as a sport. The activity is also more jazz-centered than it once was. Dahl expects Pierce, who has a strong jazz background, to lend her experience to the team.
If Dahl adds her own twist to the Emeralds, she wants to make it subtle rather than drastically transforming Krinke’s tried-and-true methods. While many of the dancers worked with both Krinke and Dahl in the past, this year’s group includes many freshmen and a few eighth-graders. Dahl has already classified these youngest dancers as “a strong group.”
“I’m just excited,” said Dahl. “I think we have a great group of kids and a great group of coaches.”