On what should have been the first day of practice in October 2015, the Aitkin All Starz dance team instead was standing outside United Methodist Church in Aitkin, attending the vigil for Steven Sandberg, an Aitkin County Deputy who was killed in the line of duty Oct. 18, 2015.
This season, for the first time under Coach Lisa Roth, the All Starz are dedicating their Jazz routine. Not only to Sandberg and his family, but to law enforcement.
Coach Roth chose the song, Sound of Silence by Disturbed, a cover of Simon & Garfunkel. She learned later, from Activities Director Jason Cline, the Disturbed version was a dedication to law enforcement, so in October 2016, Roth and her three captains – junior Courtney Conner and seniors Shelly Stephani and Megan Host – set to choreographing the Jazz routine, titled “In Honor of Badge #203,” the badge number worn by Sandberg.
The All Starz crowds, who normally wear their emotions on their sleeves during competitions, have often found themselves using those very sleeves to wipe away the tears created by watching the girls on the dance floor.
The dedication of the dance makes performing the routine easier, explained Conner.
“We try harder. We watch the audience and see them getting emotional.”
“We’re not just dancing for ourselves, the team, or to win,” added Host. “We’re dancing for Steve, his family, and law enforcement.”
Throughout the routine there are references to Sandberg, law enforcement and the lyrics of “Sound of Silence.” Part of the preparation included the girls spending a couple of days learning sign language from eighth-grade teammate Justine Johnson, whose parents are deaf.
Near the beginning of the dance, the All Starz can be seen linking their index fingers together, signing the word for “friend,” a reference to the lyrics, “Hello darkness, my old friend,” which is also signed during the song.
Around one minute and 30 seconds into the dance, the All Starz form a “2”, “0” and “3” on the floor in honor of Sandberg.
The girls use more sign language at the end of the song when they extend their arms out and down to the sides of their body, signing “of silence” – another reference to lyrics to the song.
All of the All Starz wear black-and-blue costumes, which include a blue band around their waist, honoring the Blue Line. The final formation of the routine is in the shape of a badge and includes the unfurling of Stephani’s blue band, which stretches across the formation.
“It’s not just another dance. It means something to this entire town,” said Host.
Coach Roth designed the black-and-blue costumes. “We don’t have a jersey to retire. But we can dance. We chose to honor him in the dance,” said Roth, referring to Sandberg, who had his baseball and football jerseys retired by the school district in 2016.
Una stamus – We stand as one
Kayla Ryan and her father, Paul, have a deeper connection to this year’s routine
All Starz Coach Lisa Roth said she’s had several dancers over the years who had parents who worked in law enforcement. For junior All Starz dancer Kayla Ryan and her father, Paul, the Jazz routine means a lot more to them this winter, as Paul serves as a police officer for the city of Aitkin.
When Kayla told her dad about the dance, which is honoring law enforcement and the late Steven Sandberg of the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office, she said he was really happy to hear about it.
Kayla said she asked her dad for some symbols the team could choreograph into the dance, and Kayla spent some time looking at her father’s badge for symbolism. Paul also has a tattoo, “una stamus,” Latin for “We stand as one.”
Kayla feels her team stands as one, along with the town and law enforcement. She also knows the team is there to support her, her family and the law enforcement family the Ryans belong to.
Paul said he feels there’s something more behind the Jazz routine this year. He said the song and dance are very important to him and his family.
All Starz first in kick at Alex
The Aitkin All Starz Dance Teams competed this last Saturday at a large competition held at Alexandria High School. The varsity took first place in kick out of 13 teams and second in jazz out of 12. JV Black took first in both kick and jazz. JV Red took sixth in kick and first in B Squad Jazz.
Coach Lisa Roth
“It was a great day of competition for our teams. We haven’t competed since Dec. 9 in kick and this was our first competition for all of our jazz teams so it went well for us. It was good to see all of our section teams at this competition except Bagley and BOLD who is winning in the south. We had a large group of All Starz fans cheering us on including the Kokesh family who came not only to support our Katie Lou, but our entire All Starz family. It really lifted our team to have them there. We will continue to pray for Brian and his family.
“JV teams will continue to clean their routines as they only have two weeks left of their season. Varsity will add choreography in both routines and continue to clean up routines.”
Up next, the All Starz will be competing in the Mid State Conference Jazz meet at Crosby-Ironton High School on Thursday, Jan. 12. The meet starts at 7 p.m..
1st Aitkin with a rank of 3; 2nd Frazee (6); 3rd C-I (10.5); 4th BOLD (11.5); 5th Pelican Rapids (15); 6th United Clay Becker (18.5); 7th PACT(23.5); 8th DGF (25.5); 9th Pierz (27); 10th Duluth Marshall (29); 11th New London-Spicer (30); 12th Crookston (36); 13th Wadena (39)
1st Frazee (3); 2nd Aitkin (6); 3rd BOLD (9); 4th Duluth Marshall (12.5); 5th C-I (16); 6th DGF (17); 7th Pelican Rapids (23); 8th PACT (25); 9th United Clay Becker (27); 10th Pierz (27.5); 11th Crookston (33); 12th Wadena (36)
1st Aitkin Black (3); 2nd BOLD (6); 3rd Frazee (9); 4th Pelican Rapids (10); 5th DGF (17.5); 6th Aitkin Red (20.5); 7th United Clay Becker (20.5); 8th C-I (21.5); 9th New London Spicer (24.5); 10th Pierz (28.5) 11th Wadena (32.5)
1st Aitkin (3); 2nd Frazee (7); 3rd DGF (8); 4th Pelican Rapids (14); 5th BOLD (15); 6th C-I (16); 7th United Clay Becker (21)
B Squad Jazz
1st Aitkin (3); 2nd BOLD (7); 3rd DGF (8); 4th Frazee (12); 5th C-I (15)