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What is a high school competitive dance team to do when its athletes are instructed not to make contact with one another, not to perform any lifts or stunts and to stay socially distanced throughout practices and routines?

Get creative, according to Villa Grove dance coach Sarah Bouton.

“They told me (Wednesday) they honestly love it,” Bouton said. “We’ve always had a choreographer come in to help us with a routine. This year they get to make it their own starting from scratch. It’s honestly been so fulfilling.”

The above IHSA guidance currently is rendered moot by Thursday’s IHSA Board of Directors announcement that dance and other winter sports must be put on pause in the wake of Gov. J.B. Pritzker‘s latest COVID-19 pandemic safety mitigations.

Only limited-size outdoor practices and 1-on-1 skill work between a coach and athlete can occur at this time, with the board planning to reassess its decision on Dec. 2. It’s a far cry from what Bouton’s dancers will need to be allowed to do by the time of their first competition on Jan. 2.

“My girls had lots of questions and frustrations about why the school was open but they couldn’t do sports,” Bouton said. “I’m honestly not 100 percent sure what our season will look like if we don’t go back (to practice and competition) until January.”

Bouton’s kids returned last Monday from two weeks of virtual learning. It’s times like that which caused Bouton to turn to Zoom for virtual conditioning sessions. Bouton and the girls brainstorm routine ideas and perform dance maneuvers on screen.

“Sometimes it’s a little more difficult for me to watch it,” Bouton said. “They’re all in separate places. Some of them are lagging on their computer screens. But we try our best make due with what we have.”

This could translate to competitions, according to Bouton. Teams would send in videos of their respective routines to the Illinois Dance Coaches Association by a set date. A compiled file would be sent to the meet host, publicly streamed in some fashion and remotely judged.

“It’s definitely a process,” Bouton said, “and we’re still learning as we go.”

Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at clikas@news-gazette.com, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

Prep Sports Coordinator

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

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