Wayzata Dance Coach Goes Out On Top
In an arena known mostly for professional basketball, people from all over the state packed Target Center for the Minnesota State High School League dance tournament.
It’s an annual event showcasing colors, choreography and camaraderie, all in the name of competition.
“Some people think that makeup and costuming are part of the score sheet, part of the judging. It’s not on there anywhere,” said Leslie Swiggum, Wayzata’s dance coach. “What we’re being judged on is our ability and the choreography.”
Swiggum is a permanent staple at this tournament. She’s coached the Wayzata High School dance team since the 1970s.
“This is my 44th season coaching, and the first tournament I went to was in 1977,” Swiggum said. “And I have been at every state tournament since then.”
During that time span, Swiggum has seen high school dance evolve.
“I think we used to be thought of as fluff and performance only, even though we’ve been competing since the late 70s. I think now it’s much more recognized as a sport,” Swiggum said.
This past weekend, Wayzata competed in both the jazz and high kick divisions. For a team to even get to this point requires a certain level of excellence.
“I think we value each one of our athletes whether they’re varsity, junior varsity, or B-squad,” Swiggum said. “We help them develop as humans, and not just as athletes.”
‘Time To Do Other Things’
But after four decades of helping young women develop as dancers and as people, the 66-year-old coach is calling it quits.
“I think it’s time to pass the baton to the younger coaches. They are better trained in dance than I am,” Swiggum said. “You reach a time when you still love it, but it’s time to do other things.”
Run Ends with Two State Titles
Yet before moving on to other things, Swiggum went out on top one last time. The Wayzata dance team won two state titles, taking first place in both jazz and high kick.
“It’s just been an amazing run. Who thought 44 years ago, that here I’d be,” Swiggum said. “I thought I’d do it for a couple years and then be done, but that’s not the case.”
As for what’s next, Swiggum says she plans to spend more time with her three grandchildren, but she won’t entirely walk away from the world of high school dance.
She says she wouldn’t be surprised if she plays a role at the state tournament in the coming years.