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UMS Dance Team wraps up shortened season in Ollendieck’s final year

April 1, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Dysart Reporter

Winter weather was a not a friend to the five members of the Union Middle School Dance Team and coach Katharine Ollendieck as a majority of their events this season were cancelled. However, that did not stop the team from bringing the legacy of the King of Pop to life and all the while enjoying themselves in the process.

"It's the 50th anniversary of Michael Jackson and the high school team also did his music too," Ollendieck said. "Between our two teams, we flooded Union with MJ. We had a long, difficult routine, which is hard with mother nature being rough on us at taking away rehearsal time."

Last season, a much larger version of the UMS Dance Team performed their routine nine times for their peers and community. This year, the team has shown off their moonwalk only twice: at the high school fundraiser and again at the winter sports awards recognition for UMS athletes. The ladies performed a routine featuring Jackson's biggest hits like "Thriller," "Black or White" and "Bad" with their smallest group in all of Ollendieck's ten years of coaching between UMS and the high school."

Article Photos

The UMS Dance team-Deanna Painter White, Magdaline Erdahl, Erica Hoppe, Landy Blackburn-perform at the middle school on Wednesday, March 13.

"This was a year I had only five girls out, which was unheard of considering I had 25 last year," Ollendieck said. "I sent 14 girls off last year to the high school. With a small team, we were able to focus more on the choreography and work more individually. That's why we selected a novelty piece, because it's easier to do more storytelling pieces with a smaller group. It forced them to dig deep this year."

In addition to their MJ routine, the team was encouraged to participate in a community service project, choosing to do a holiday routine during the Dysart holiday event in late November. The extra routine was learned in practice and Ollendieck noticed just how much the girls seemed to enjoy the challenge of taking on another performance and being involved in the community.

"We spent six hours that day performing and helping the Dysart's Women Club, and I feel that's an important part of our season," Ollendieck said. "We have to connect with the community because we rely on them for their support. We raise the funds for our program ourselves and through community outreach they see the value of the program."

Ollendieck first started coaching dancing 10 years ago as her daughter was going through the program. After three years at UMS, Ollendieck went on to the high school to continue coaching her daughter before returning to the middle school for the next three as Shelby Graveman took over the reins of the high school team. Believing the program to be in good hands going forward, Ollendieck announced this was her final year coaching the middle school team.

"It was a personal decision for me to put more time into work and I'm ready to pass the baton on to someone excited about Union Dance," Ollendieck said. "There's a lot of people eager about this program. If I felt someone wasn't out there prepared for this, I wouldn't be stepping down."

From her first routine ten years ago that drew the dancers' peers to their feet to today paying tribute to the King of Pop, it's been a journey for Ollendieck she will never forget.

"It's ten years of girls I know did everything I could to support them," Ollendieck said. "I'll miss it and it's hard to walk away. I've talked about it for years and I'm finally doing it. I just hope that the fundraising efforts and support from the community continues, that the great choreography and performances continue. I'm proud of what we've created over the years and the work Shelby has done over the years. If people come up to us and tell us what we're doing looks easy, that's a compliment in my book."

With the middle school dance season at an end, the eighth graders will have a chance to audition for the high school team on April 20 and continue their careers with the competitive and/or varsity team.



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