Minnesota High School dance teams have a very rich legacy with high quality Kick dance performances. I have had many conversations over the decades, with High School dance teams across the country. Teams in other states (Satin Stitches Ltd has been, and continues to be very involved with high school dance team organizations in Wisconsin, North Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Washington and Oregon). Coaches in these states (and others without formal coach’s organizations) have looked to Minnesota as their resource and model for just how a competitive kick team should look. I have always been so proud, as Satin Stitches has been a part of this legacy, with dramatic 3-D visuals that have enhanced our Minnesota Kick team routines.
As with everything, styles evolve and transform from a certain style to another style, in order to remain ‘new’. This applies to High School Kick team costumes, as well. The 80’s started with the first spandex skating costume-inspired dresses with minimal detailing – maybe some color blocking with a bit of sequined edging. Then more and more sequins were added, year after year, to this costuming.
The over-the-top excess in fashion showed up by the 90’s with yards and yards of actual sequin trim creating fully sequined costumes, plus the addition of fuller skirts with big shoulder pads and puffed/gathered sleeves. Once this trend cycle went as far as it could, new ‘radical’/fashion forward designs harkened back to the minimalistic silhouettes of the early 80’s. New looks started very plain, with a minimum of rhinestoned embellishment. Once again, more and more rhinestones have been added to High School Kick team costumes. Soon, high school dance team costumes will cycle away from rhinestone embellishment…it is bound to happen.
After the ‘fluffy’ dress, A-line dresses, pants, unitards and biketards were added as silhouettes. When Minnesota High School Kick costumes cycled back to minimalistic, most of the visual costume ‘effects’ that enhanced nearly ALL of Minnesota’s kick teams were generally eliminated. These effects were no longer ‘cool’. About this time, themed kick costuming came into vogue, as well, which revolutionized kick costuming so that most teams now wanted themed costuming every new season, as opposed to investing in a dramatic kick costume that could be utilized with new choreography every new season (as was the previous mode).
Generally, gone were all the 3-D effects of yesteryear! No more extending the arm-line with matching gloves. Gone were most under-arm color changes for that dramatic visual with all dancers raising their arms in formation. One throwback visual with a new twist, has been inseam stripes of a contrasting color to create this ‘Wow’ factor on pants or leggings. Gone are the side-to-side and front-to-back color changes that were always crowd-pleasing!
These 3-D visuals are no longer part of most team’s repertoire of choreographed moves. I lament the loss of this added visual ‘spark’. Other visual effects included hidden insets in skirts, sleeves or pant legs, design details that followed around the body of the dancer, a contrasting lining on a skirt and BOLD rather than subtle details or colors. Another aspect to consider, is how costumes on a team ‘work’ en-masse versus how they look alone, as a solo. All of these visual effects take a bit of cleverness to achieve. To me, they are well worth the effort!
Maybe in a few years, visual effects will once again be a part of Minnesota Kick routines. Maybe we just need to move through all the current ‘transformations’ during performance that are prevalent, for example, with biketards transforming into dresses, or slim unitards transforming into caped costumes, or draped scarves turning into skirts etc.? Don’t get me wrong…these transforming costumes also need a bit of cleverness to achieve, and at Satin Stitches, we have been succeeding with these for many, many years.
But I worry that the visual effects that Minnesota Kick teams have been known for, will be forgotten. I challenge all Kick team coaches who are working on new designs for next season, to consider adding some visual effects to their costuming!
The most exciting Kick performances will still include fabulous dancing, great choreography with interesting formations, wonderful synchronicity, and sensational music, AND fun, surprising visual effects caused by utilizing great costume design. It’s a package deal!
Look to the expertise of your professional costume design company in helping to determine what effects are worthwhile. One of the most common mistakes of an amateur designer is to over-design, to place too many, and conflicting design features on a costume. Keep in mind the visual ‘flow’. But also take advantage of a professional costume designer, who can suggest features that will enhance your team’s Kick costume, rather than distracting from your performance.
As you move towards designing next year’s Kick routines and costuming, remember to take advantage of ALL components that can give your team a ‘leg up’ on the competition!