MINNEAPOLIS – Controversy continues to take center stage in the Minnesota dance community after five teams were disqualified over a protest at the High School State Dance Tournament this weekend.
Questions now come over the actions of the coaches leading the five teams protesting the Faribault Emeralds’ winning routine at the Class 3A State Championships at Target Center.
The Faribault Emeralds dance team won the state High Kick dance championship after a unanimous vote from judges, but during the awards ceremony, the other teams refused to line up and accept their awards, making their way to the opposite end of the court. The teams – from Wayzata, Eden Prairie, Lakeville South, Eastview, and Chaska – were subsequently disqualified.
“It was extremely disappointing,” said Erin Kruesi, a longtime dance coach who was at the tournament.
Kruesi asked her own students to leave the stadium so they wouldn’t witness the act she believes was poor sportsmanship.
“Regardless of right or wrong and what they had done or not done, I have never seen a situation where dance teams put down other girls so publicly, crime committed or not, so to me, I stood there with tears rolling down my cheeks just looking like I have never witnessed something like this happening to teenage girls,” she said.
Kruesi also runs the popular website, Minnesota High School Dance team online. She live-blogged the state tournament as “Coach Erin” and instead of posting scores, she was forced to update her website with heartache.
“If you have a valid case or protest that you want to make, there is a lot better ways to do it than damaging the self-esteem of young women who we work so hard to build up, and and I feel like the coaches knew that,” said Kruesi.
The friction brewed even before the tournament began. Before the finals, the Minnesota State High School League investigated claims that the Faribault dance team plagiarized part of its routine. Faribault was accused of stealing their routine from a different dance team in Utah.
The League investigated the claims, looked at video of the two teams, and determined Faribault did nothing to break the rules.
“…current MSHSL Dance Team rules were not violated,” the letter said. “This team will be allowed to compete in the tournament this weekend.”
Faribault Dance Coach Lois Krinke admits to copying the Utah team’s concept but using their own moves for the routine.
“If any amount of time was similar, it was four seconds here and there and never consecutively,” said Krinke. “We had performed this dance in competition three times prior to, and nobody said a thing. We get to sections and we win, and then all this happened. So you draw the conclusion,” she said.
Kruesi admits to also taking inspiration from other teams, but says the protest is a symptom of a deeper divide over the league’s outdated rules that no longer represent modern day dance ethics or creative copyright issues.
“There isn’t a routine at the state tournament that didn’t have something I hadn’t seen before, my own team included,” she said. “The rule is very general and broad and doesn’t reflect our current system of having YouTube and television and opportunities to see things we weren’t able to see back in the 1990s.”
The state high school league doesn’t have a rule in place that specifically states how much dance teams are allowed to borrow from other squads. The rule says outside choreographers are not allowed. Kruesi added that many coaches were frustrated by a lack of communication from the MSHSL over why Faribault was exonerated of any wrongdoing, and it was the culmination of communication problems between the league and dance community over the years.
“I feel very personally and strongly the league has not met coaches halfway,” said Kruesi. “They (coaches) felt like there was no other choice, I understand that, but I just wish the kids weren’t involved with the situation.”
Lakeville South was the first district to respond regarding the protest, saying it will investigate its team to determine the appropriate course of action to uphold the integrity of the district. Both Eden Prairie and Wayzata sent email statements to KARE 11 Monday.
“Eden Prairie Schools is currently in the process of gathering information about last weekend’s state dance tournament. We will conduct an investigation to determine the best course of action that not only upholds the integrity of the sport, but also aligns with the district’s values,” said spokesperson Jaclyn Swords.
Wayzata Public Schools spokesperson Amy Parnell said Wayzata dancers placed second but did not receive the medals after not complying with the requests to properly line up.
“The events that occurred at Saturday night’s State Dance competition were unfortunate for everyone involved. We are currently conducting an investigation of what happened and look forward to working together with the Minnesota State High School League toward an outcome that is in the best interest of all the teams,” wrote Parnell.
The Minnesota State High School League said it is very disappointed and will try to determine the next course of action in its own investigation.
MSHSL spokesperson John Milea tweeted his distaste for the actions of the coaches and students who stood aside from Faribault, suggesting the incident orchestrated ahead of time by the coaches.
“I don’t know what happened, but my take is simple in these cases: Poor sportsmanship hurts the sport, no matter the sport. This was terrible,” he wrote.
Kruesi says she is only on the side of the sport and hopes for more opportunity to improve dance competition on all levels.
“I think this set us back a long way,” she concluded. “If we burnt the city down on this event, I think we have a better chance to build it better than it was before.”