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Dudes dance, too!

Dance Spectacular 2017 features award-winning coed and all-male teams
The Solon Dance Team’s all male squad: (front) Zach Cramer, Nate Carbaugh, Shane Welty; (back) Ely Kleinsmith, Logan Yakish, Marcus Martin, Noah Erickson, Tanner Larkey and Max Eaton.

SOLON– “Just don’t let me be the only dude out there,” said Logan Yakish when he finally agreed to join Solon’s co-ed dance team last year.
“It’s gucci!” his friends reassured him. (For the uninitiated, “gucci” is high school-ese for “cool.”)
“I would never have imagined myself dancing. I was that kid at homecoming that just kind of stood there awkwardly. Like if I did something, I’d think, like, everyone’s looking at me,” Yakish said. “Then when I became friends with the other guys, I saw what they do at dances. They just don’t care. They’re dancing everywhere. They’re just full of energy so I joined in with them, and I had so much fun!”
The idea of guys joining Solon’s dance team had been percolating among the varsity girls for a few years before Yakish, a junior, and senior Shane Welty became the first guys to sign up.
“For many years the varsity team has seen coed routines being performed at state and other high school dance shows,” recalled Marjorie Lane, who has coached Solon’s dance team for 14 years.
“I’ve had boys interested in joining the varsity team over the years but it would only be one or two,” she said. “In the fall of 2015, the team was determined to finally do a coed routine. So they asked their friends to be their dance partners.”
With encouragement from Coach Lane, the team made it happen.
“We recruited all of our guy friends to do it,” said Claire Siems, a junior member of the varsity and coed teams. “I think they had so much fun doing the coed routine last year that they decided they wanted to do their own dance for the All Male and then recruited more guys.”
“We got the first year coed team built and after everyone performed in that, we all had an adrenaline rush where we wanted to keep doing it. We wanted to make our own team,” said Welty.
The guys had arrived to the Solon dance world. The coed performance at Solon’s annual Dance Spectacular show last spring was a hit. The team went on to receive several accolades when they took their routines to the Iowa State Dance Team Association (ISDTA) annual team competition on Dec. 1. Solon’s teams earned first place in Small School All Male Open and fourth place in Small School Co-Ed. Solon’s all male team was also given a special “Judge’s Choice” award for their “Postman” routine.
First held in 1976 with only nine teams, the ISDTA championship has grown to become one the largest and most prestigious events in the nation, with over 5,000 competitors representing 270 high school and 25 collegiate teams. This year, in addition to first- and fourth-place rankings for their routines, Solon’s varsity and all male teams were recognized for Excellence in Academics for team grade point averages of 3.38. For the past eight years, the dance program has also received Outstanding Community Service honors at state dance, awarded to only four teams in Iowa.
Welty said he enjoys everything about the dance program. “Especially competing with other teams. It just feels great... being out in front of a big audience, showing what you’ve really worked for and doing well. It’s great!” he said.
Currently, the coed, varsity and all male team are made up of nine girls and nine guys. Coach Lane emphasizes flexibility in order to maximize student participation in the dance program, which starts in June with camps and practice to prepare for performances at football and basketball games throughout the fall and into spring. The last competitions and shows of the season wrap up just before spring break.
“We’ve had students who are in cheerleading, in cross-country, in musical, in band, in choir. We’ve had people who are in wrestling, in volleyball. We’ve had students who have been involved in everything,” Lane said. “So as long as there’s open lines of communication between students, myself and parents as to what the scheduling will be and practice workload, then we make it work.”
The team’s community service projects include working the steak sandwich tent at Solon Beef Days, collecting pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House and travel-size products for Waypoint and canned food drives for the Solon food pantry.
The team also conducts two dance clinics per year through which they reach out to kids from kindergarten through eighth grade to share the joy of dancing.

“From my point of view, this group of students is an amazing set of role models,” said Lane. “It’s a win-win for everyone. They help teach 150 kids in a fall cheer and dance clinic for a football performance and will work with about 100 kids in the glow-in-the dark clinic on Jan. 28.”
Early exposure to dance provided by the clinics and annual show is no doubt a key factor in the ongoing success of the dance program.
“Almost every single girl that is involved with this team now has probably done that cheer and dance clinic– either the fall or the glow clinic (for Spring Spectacular) at least once if not more,” observed Lane. “Last year’s senior class… I had actually worked with those girls from kindergarten through graduation.”
“Our clinics have always been open to boys and girls,” she noted. And now that some older guys are part of the high school team, the little guys are starting to realize that it’s okay for them to dance as well.
“I think it was helpful when the guys helped out with the fall clinic this year... I went around with Logan to pick up the kids and take them to the gym where we teach them the dances,” said Siems. “Logan came with me, and the kids were like, ‘you’re a guy, you can’t dance.’ And Logan’s like, ‘oh yes, I can dance!’”
Lane said the community response to guys joining the dance team has been great. “They enjoy these new adventures. I think sometimes the student body can be a little slower to be receptive to it, because it’s a big change. It’s something very different that has not been around Solon,” she said. “I think if it’s given a positive chance, it could grow into something that is a lasting tradition.”
“It’s pretty cool to hear in a performance the girls cheering on the guys, and then when the girls perform, the guys cheer them on,” said Lane. “We have wonderful, talented performers that create a perfect balance of sport and art. It is a full team effort. They help each other polish and perfect routines, give me feedback on technique and choreography and remember to have fun.”
Solon Dance Spectacular 2017 will be held on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 6 p.m. in the Solon High School gymnasium. The show will feature team and solo performances by varsity girls, coed and all male teams along with light routines by middle schoolers and kids in preschool through sixth grade. Dancers from local studios and other high school teams will also take part.