Saintettes rock the house at annual Extravaganza

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

On Saturday night inside the Armstrong Auditorium, the St. James Saintettes held their 29th annual Extravaganza to a COVID-19 limited audience.

The Saints opened their feature night with the performance of their competition dance, "Hair UP."

The Saintettes honored their two seniors, captain Mara Pauling, and team manager Kelsey Sagehorn.

Even though the crowd inside the Armstrong Auditorium was not the capacity crowd the event typically is, Pauling and Sagehorn said they were fortunate enough to event have an Extravaganza in their senior year.

"This means more than anything honestly," said Pauling. "We didn't know if this was even going to happen."

"We know this is the last for us so we know we have to make it count," said Sagehorn. "This is meaningful to us because it is our last time so I feel like that makes us aware that we needed to make it count."

Throughout the night, Saintettes read "Why I Dance" letters, a tradition started by head coach Beth Johnson.

Sagehorn, Pauling, Andrea Contreras, and Taryn Helling all had their "Why I Dance" letters featured, and highlighted the family bonding the team had this year, the memories made, and, of course, for who and why they dance.

In coach's remarks, Johnson noted the youth and growth shown by her club, with only one senior dancer and numerous middle schoolers on the varsity roster. The average grade of all Saintettes dancers was ninth grade.

The two seniors echoed their coach's sentiments.

"Seeing the growth within the girls was one of the coolest things," said Pauling. "And that's all I wanted for this season—was for everyone to have their own personal goals met, and exceed them. And I feel like that's what happened."

Johnson also highlighted the late start to the season, with the expectation that the team would receive numerous opportunities in conference meets to showcase and display their skills. 

"That would be a really good thing for a young team to hear all that feedback," said Johnson.

However, just prior to the season, the state went into shutdown due to COVID-19, which forced Johnson and her club to adjust on the fly.

While the Saints had their routine in place, Johnson and assistant coach Nicole Anderson had to choreograph the entire dance via Zoom meetings. The Saintettes then had to start their season over Zoom,

"That was a whole other dimension in itself because the music wouldn't be in sync with what the girls were doing at home," said Johnson. "We'd try to play the music for them and have them try and dance it to us and it would be off or the music would be off. It was absolutely a nightmare—but again, the girls took it in stride and did what they could and it was amazing."

After nailing down their choreography and routine, the Saintettes had to search out for competitions, instead of being invited like in normal years. Competitions typically host 15-20 teams, but with COVID restrictions, only three teams could be at a competition, which made finding events difficult to come by. 

To qualify for sections, all teams must compete in three competitions.

"Through all of this, [there were] no complaints," said Johnson. "Nothing. Nobody even questioned a thing."

The struggle to find competitions led to the Saints hosting their first ever competition, after 50 years of dancing and three years of being a varsity-level sport.

"We are so grateful and thankful that happened," said Johnson We are hopeful that can be an annual tradition because it was the best feeling in the world to compete on our home floor."

The Saintettes opened their season by dancing against Spectrum Dance, who just managed to edge the Saintettes. At sections, the Saintettes matched up against Spectrum and this time came out on top.

The ever-popular dad's dance was also performed to a rousing applause. The dancers also performed "The Real Slim Shady," choreographed by Mara Pauling, The Munchkin Dance, and the Light Show to close out the night.