MARQUETTE - Twice a week, the old gymnasium at Marquette's Graveraet School is transformed into a dance studio.
The dozen high school girls that make up the Marquette Senior High School Dance Team use that time - four hours each week - to perfct their craft.
First-year coach Jessica Aho, herself a MSHS graduate, has been a dancer for most of her life. In addition to teaching at Father Marquette Elementary School, she has taught cheer and dance clinics at the YMCA.
Marquette Senior High School dance team's Faith Cole catches Courtenie Taccolini during a trust-fall move while practicing a routine at the Graveraet gymnasium Tuesday. (Journal photo by Danielle Pemble)
The Marquette Senior High School dance team practices a routine at the Graveraet gymnasium Tuesday. (Journal photo by Danielle Pemble)
"I was on the team previously so I've always been interested in coaching and I've been a dancer for probably about 25 years of my life," she said. "I always wanted to get back into dance."
She said her team draws a huge amount of interest each school year.
For open tryouts this year, she estimates 50 girls showed up. Only 12 made the team, and she estimates each girl spends at least 10 hours each week practicing and choreographing their routines.
The team members require a surprisingly small amount of practice for each new routine. Aho said she will lead the girls through one two-hour practice to learn the basics of a routine; they will then spend another practice polishing the routine before performing it in public.
The team experience, Aho said, is beneficial on numerous levels.
"They are learning social skills and public relations. It's really hard to get up in front of an audience and dance or speak or do anything," she said. "It also makes them better students because you need to keep your grades up to be on the team. They also need to be positive role models for other kids in the school."
Most people in the community know the team from the performances during halftime at football and basketball games.
"They are very hard-working and are all dedicated members. They learn and teach choreography," she said. "But we participate in other activities than just performing at halftime."
The team members take part in social and volunteer activities in the area, but Aho's words are very literal, as well. The team is planning an upcoming fundraiser show, titled "Not Just A Halftime Show."
The event kicks off at 7 p.m. in the MSHS gym.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.