Dancers kick it up a notch for charity at Catholic Jamboree

| Julie Pfitzinger | December 14, 2010 | 0 Comments

Seniors Natalie Huber, center, Ali Colburn, left and Ashley Blau, members of the Academy of Holy Angels junior varsity dance team, participated in the Catholic Jamboree Dec. 4 at Benilde-St. Margaret’s. Watch video from the event at Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Seven high school dance teams participated in an event that took the focus away from competition and put it squarely on compassion during the Dec. 4 Cath­olic Jam­bo­ree at Benilde-St. Mar­ga­ret’s in St. Louis Park.

For the first time, the annual high kick and jazz event, formerly the Catholic Quad Meet, was a fundraiser, with proceeds going to the Autism Society of Minnesota, a St. Paul organization that supports individuals with au­tism spectrum disorders through education and resources.

Participating schools were Academy of Holy Angels, Hill-Mur­ray, Holy Family Catholic, Benilde-St. Mar­ga­ret’s, Totino-Grace, Cathe­dral High School/John XXIII Middle School in St. Cloud and New Ulm Cathedral.

The Autism Society was selected by all of the coaches because sisters Kelly Newlin and Kerry Marshall, coaches of the AHA dance team, have a cousin with autism.

“We started talking about how vital service is in our Catholic school communities,” said Kelly McGinnis, who coaches the BSM Knightettes with Tracy Stendal, both former Knightettes.

“By all the teams sharing our com­mon passion for dance, we thought we could also give back and do something positive.”

Autism Society only winner

Although teams were judged with the same criteria used at a standard high school dance competition, just feedback about their performances was given. No winner was selected.

McGin­nis said the spirit of the day was “more about a dance show than a competition.”

The first section of the event was de­voted to jazz performances; the second to high kick. In between the two rounds, there was a raffle for a new iPad. Participants purchased a bead for $5 that entitled them to play the “Heads or Tails” game. A student from AHA won.

“He was definitely happy,” said Becki Goulet, parent of Liz Goulet, a junior and member of the BSM Varsity jazz and high kick dance teams. “He kept saying he was so glad he came.”
Goulet credits the dedication of more than 50 BSM parent volunteers with creating a successful event.

“The week before Thanksgiving, Benilde also hosted the first conference jazz meet of the year, so we’ve been busy,” she said.

Coach, team camaraderie

Sara Marek, longtime St. Cloud Cathedral coach, said the usual competitive nature of a dance event gave way to a more relaxed, less pressure-filled day for all the girls.

“It was different for them at first, but once the event started, everything went so well,” she said. “We had the opportunity to put everything aside to just dance and benefit others at the same time.”

Marek said it was especially meaningful to see several representatives from the Autism Society of Min­ne­sota, all dressed in green, in attendance.

At the end of the event, the team captains each stood up and read a short paragraph about the work of the Autism Society and offered ideas about ways audience members could support the organization in the future.

McGinnis said more than $3,000 was raised from ticket, headband and T-shirt sales and raffle proceeds.

The coaches would like to see the Catholic Jamboree become a yearly tradition, with host schools and charities changing each year.

“Hopefully, this event will be kind of a catapult for other groups to consider following in the same direction and do what they can to help others,” said Marek.

“We really think it was a great experience for all the schools and for the girls,” said McGinnis.

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