St. Al’s Flashettes dance team finishes eighth at national competition

Published 7:05 am Sunday, February 12, 2023

For the past year, the St. Aloysius Flashettes dance team worked to perfect a two-minute routine.

Early-morning workouts before school started before the sun came up. Running. Lifting. Cardio. The Flashettes committed to it all, and it paid off last weekend.

St. Al’s dance team finished eighth in the small varsity kick division at the Universal Dance Association’s National Dance Team Championship in Orlando, Florida. It was a major achievement for a program that has already won eight Mississippi state titles.

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“In November, December, January, we had to meet for 6 a.m. practices. But this team never complained. Our motto is determination, dedication and discipline, and this team has that in spades,” Flashettes coach Chesley Lambiotte said.

The members of the Flashettes are seniors Gabby Andrews, Ally Doiron and Karly Henderson; juniors Sawyer McCain and Grace Windham; sophomores Ryan Hadley Grey and Helena Wallace; and freshmen Elizabeth Bednar, Hayden Bell, Olivia Larsen and Farrell Roberson.

St. Al qualified for the national competition by finishing first at a UDA camp last summer. Qualifying and actually going are two different things, however.

Besides the expense of the trip, working around schedule conflicts with other sports and activities took plenty of effort. The team had to practice before school because St. Al’s basketball teams used the gym after. Players who play other sports had to dance around those games at the same time they were dancing for the Flashettes.

This was only the third time since 2017 that the team has gone to Orlando for nationals.

“Most years we get a bid to nationals, but it’s a lot of work,” Lambiotte said.

VIDEO: See the Flashettes’ performance in the finals of the UDA national competition

For this year’s cycle, the Flashettes also switched from their usual division to the “kick” division. Each discipline requires teams to incorporate different moves and choreography into their routine.

In the kick division, teams must have a minimum of 60 kicks — of several different varieties — packed into a two-minute dance number. That meant a lot of workouts to strengthen ankles and legs to be able to power through a short but physically grueling routine. The Flashettes also had to learn new moves and choreography to make it all seamless.

“You can be really creative with it. Any kick off the floor counts, and the judges like a variety,” Lambiotte said. “We have a friend, Sara Berry Lee, who choreographed the original version in May 2022 and we adjusted it throughout the year.”

The Flashettes also had to handle some unexpected adversity. A couple of weeks before nationals, freshman Hayden Bell fell while performing during a basketball game. She broke her hip, which was not only an emotional blow to the team but a practical one as well.

With one less member, last-minute adjustments had to be made to the choreography to compensate for her absence.

“When you’ve done it that long it’s muscle memory. Just a little shift is difficult for the girls,” Lambiotte said.

The Flashettes headed off to Orlando to start nationals on Feb. 3. Their first performance was in the morning, and a watch party was held for St. Al’s students. They gathered in the school’s gym to watch it on a livestream.

“Those guys being there supporting us was special,” Lambiotte said.

In dance competitions, teams are judged based off of technical skill and performing required elements. Points are added or deducted throughout to come up with a score at the end.

That portion of it, Lambiotte said, makes it as physically demanding a sport as there is.

“It’s a sport. It’s a form of art, but the way it is now it is a sport,” she said. “You have to leave no doubt that you are the best team out there.”

The Flashettes did that with their first performance. Twenty-five teams participated in the semifinal round, and St. Al was among 10 to advance to the finals on Feb. 4.

They wound up finishing eighth in the country, marking the first time they’d placed in their three trips to nationals.

“All the stars aligned for the hard work and focus to pay off, and they all wanted it,” Lambiotte said. “Being able to showcase our school on that level was special for the girls.”

Lambiotte added that the Flashettes’ journey over the past year was about more than just winning a competition. Along the way, she said, it has taught the team members a lot about life.

“What this experience is preparing them for, more than anything, is life — how to excel in a job and as a human being,” Lambiotte said. “It’s showing you what it is to be extraordinary.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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