Dancers perform with a hip-hop in their step
Friday was the day Clarie Grant had been waiting for since September.
On that afternoon, less than an hour before students headed out the door for two weeks of winter break, she got to see three months of preparation come to life in three minutes of high-energy activity on the floor of the Rosemount High School gym.
For the past five years, Grant has been coach of The Beyonds, RHS’s hip hop dance group. The group holds auditions each year shortly after classes start, begins practicing in mid-September and typically has its biggest performance each year at the school’s holiday pep fest. They also perform at halftime of a few basketball games and last year added a small competition with a few other schools.
The hip-hop dance group goes back several years at RHS. In the beginning it was known as Da Bomb Squad. Grant, who has coached a similar team at Apple Valley High School for the past 14 years, added the RHS team to her duties five years ago. She said students chose the new name as an apparently Toy Story-inspired nod to her Apple Valley team: Infinity.
Participation has been up and down since Grant took over. There were about 25 dancers her first year. It dropped to 12 a few years ago and is about 26 this year — 22 girls and four boys.
“You get a lot of freshmen,” she said. “Freshmen love to come in and do things.”
For students like senior Jasmine Smith, one of the team’s captains this year, The Beyonds are a welcome alternative to a dance line like the school’s Irishettes.
Smith has been dancing for seven years after getting started with the praise dance team at her grandmother’s church. She picked up hip-hop along the way, but she never really pictured herself doing the things the Irishettes do.
“They’re more into, like, the spins and the kicking and that’s never really been my style of dance,” Smith said. “I couldn’t really involve myself in that.”
With The Beyonds, Smith has found a dance team that allows her to express herself the way she wants. Dancers on the team are responsible for choreographing their performance and choosing what they will wear when they perform. This year team members took a trip to the Mall of America together to choose their uniforms.
Smith said she likes giving students an opportunity to take control of what they are doing.
“It gives the kids a purpose,” she said. “It gives them something to do after school.”
The Beyonds also gave junior Ben Young the most terrifying, most thrilling day of his life. He was a freshman two years ago when he made his Beyonds debut as the centerpiece of the pep fest performance.
Young was inspired to start dancing by one of the Step Up movies. He saw a poster for The Beyonds his freshman year and decided to audition. He was the only boy on the team that year, and at the pep fest found himself dancing a solo.
The crowd went crazy, starting to cheer before he had done anything more than walk onto the flor. A video posted on YouTube shows students jumping up and pumping their fists as Young dances. It was a big moment for a freshman.
“I had worked it up so much in my mind the week before that I felt sick that day,” he said. “But I thought, ‘I have to do this for the team.’ The response I got from that was just amazing. I was trending (on Twitter). It was one of the best days that I can remember in my life so far.”
Young said dancing has become part of his identity now.
“It’s a skill that not many people have,” he said. “It’s a way a lot of people identify me now in the school.”
Both Smith and Young would like the Beyonds to expand its current schedule. Last year’s competition was a start, but both say they want more opportunities to show off the work they do.
“A lot of the girls want to do more,” Smith said. “We only really get the holiday pep fest, and sometimes it’s not enough. You don’t want it to end there.”