ROCHELLE — Competitive dance had been deemed a high-risk sport by the IDPH throughout the summer and fall due to the coronavirus pandemic. That has since changed, and Rochelle Township High School head dance coach Kass Smith was relieved to hear the good news.
The IHSA Board of Directors held a special meeting this past Wednesday to decide on winter sports, with the board voting to proceed with competitive dance, which has been downgraded to a low-risk sport under the revised IDPH All Sports Policy for winter sports. Practices for winter sports can begin on Nov. 16, with games and meets scheduled to start on Nov. 30.
“We’re very capable of spacing 6 feet apart throughout an entire routine,” Smith said. “I’m very happy that competitive dance was revised to a low-risk sport. The dance team is something so positive for all of the student-athletes that participate. We have such a family vibe and the girls were missing that atmosphere. Participating in a sport also helps with academics and attendance, something all student-athletes have struggled with during this time.”
Because competitive dance was initially deemed a high-risk sport, the Chellettes were limited to no-contact practices throughout the summer and fall months. The Chellettes were also unable to host their annual summer camp and youth camp, which helps raise funds for the program.
However, Smith said that many dancers worked out at home over the summer to stay in shape, and with 20 fall contact days to use throughout September and October courtesy of the IHSA, Smith said the team took advantage of the good weather by practicing outdoors. The fall has also been spent catching new team members up for the upcoming winter season.
“Our restrictions include staying 6 feet apart, even during transitions, and we must wear masks,” Smith said. “The restrictions will change how we do our routines because we typically use touch to convey emotion. Lifts and partner work can also up your difficulty, but it will be an even playing field since no teams will be able to do that.”“Our practices will mostly remain the same except that we need to wear masks at all times and stay 6 feet apart.”
Schools will have the option to host dance competitions virtually this season, and that shift is something Smith said she hopes schools will take advantage of. The Chellettes are looking to build on one of their most successful seasons in program history last year, when the girls placed second in the IHSA DeKalb Sectional and sixth in the IHSA 1A State Finals.
“I have such a talented team this year,” Smith said. “Before COVID-19 hit, we were really hoping to place fourth or better at state this year. That’s a goal the girls set for themselves, and that’s still our goal, but we also know we may not have a state series.”