It's been a long road, but on Monday, the Saintettes finally received the news they had been waiting for.
Three generations of Saintettes sat in the Armstrong Media Center on a brisk Monday evening awaiting a verdict on their fate and future for the 2018-19 season.
A vote that could keep them as an activity, performing for other sanctioned teams, only getting a few times to perform for the community.
Or, a vote that would validate them as a sanctioned sport that could compete competitively, earn athletic recognition and be the main event.
For Marsha Schultz, an original Saintette in 1972, dance line was not only new to St. James but the state of Minnesota at large.
Competitive dancing in Minnesota hadn't emerged until the mid-70's when the first State Dance line Competition which was held at Anoka High School. In the early years of the dance line competition, the winner of the state tournament was in charge of and hosted the next year’s event.
Schultz and her Saintettes' team weren't a competitive sport but merely used as entertainment for the halftime shows, like many of the dance line teams in the state.
On August 23, 1980, eleven advisors from throughout the state met at Minnetonka High School to discuss dance team issues and to find better ways to organize regular season and the state tournament competition. This led to the formation of the Minnesota Association of Dance Lines (MAD), thus providing an avenue for teams to move from recreational dancing to competitive dancing.
After Schultz’s time as a Saintette was up, more changes to the dancing landscaped happened.
The first Judges’ and Coaches’ Clinic was held in the fall of 1983, and the State tournament was moved to St. Cloud State University. In 1984, the State tournament moved to the Minneapolis Auditorium and functioned comfortably there until the move to the St. Paul Civic Center in 1989.
Schulz' daughter and current coach Beth Johnson was a Saintette in the 90's.
Dance Line in the 90's started to take a different shape and moves in mid-90's from MAD and MSHL would change the course of dance teams in Minnesota.
In the fall and winter of 1995, member schools of the Minnesota State High School League began a discussion with MADT and, on March 20, 1996, the League’s Representative Assembly voted to include girls dance team as a League-sponsored athletic activity.
However, Johnson and her fellow Saintettes would have to settle for entertainment shows, the yearly Extravaganza, while other teams were competing.
While the idea of dance line as a sport had become a reality for most of Minnesota, the Saintettes were left in the cold.
Twenty-two years after that decision, three generations of Saintettes -- Schultz, Johnson and eight of the current Saintettes seated side-by-side listened to discussions from the board.
They heard the board discuss how they didn't think there was enough in the budget for updated uniforms.
They listened to hesitations from the board on them being "ready" for a competitive schedule.
They waited as a motion to table the matter for a later date was entertained, and then voted against.
It all came down to the final vote, a vote ‘yay’ or ‘nay’.
With four counts of approval, on Feb. 12, 2018, 45 years of dance line history had become validated as they were approved as MHSL sport.
As tears of exuberance filled the eyes of the few members of the Saintettes team, Johnson and Schultz soaked in the moment they had waited for decades.
While there is a long road as they look to establish their competitive footing, Monday was a day of long-awaited vindication for Sainettes past and present.
What Does This Mean?
The Saintettes’ first season as a sanctioned sport will begin next week on March 6-7, with open tryouts for grades 8-12, while 7th graders will get a free trial year.
They will be competing in the high-kick category, a category that they are well-versed in.
The tryout process is done on a numerical system, where prospective dancers are given a number, scores are tallied by non-team affiliated judges and then split into Varsity and JV based on the 30 point difference.
The team is retaining a large core of their team, only losing two seniors (Alyssa Anderson and MacKinzee Miest) to graduation.
Johnson said that next season will be used to build her team up to the competitive level, potentially competing in three events: New Ulm Cathedral Invitational, GFW Invitational, and YME Invitational.
While MSHL rules would prevent the Saintettes from dancing out of season and non-sanctioned performances, the Extravaganza will still be a fixture of their schedule.
“The Extravaganza is one of best events, for the community, for fundraising for the local youth, so we will continue to do that as planned,” said Johnson.
While more details will be flushed out in the coming weeks, the Saintettes’ are expected to add a new dancing coach in addition to Johnson and Schulz, updated uniforms and change in their calendar year as it will begin Oct. 22 and end on Feb. 15, 2019.