College Dance Team Central

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Dancer’s Journey Through Life

Article published on Friday, July 14th, 2006
By DEREK CLARKSTON
Kodiak Daily Mirror

Marie Finn lives life to a rhythm.

“I’ve kind of got that music in me,” the 18-year-old said.

She often finds herself wriggling her arms, scooting her feet and moving her hips to whatever sound is coming out of the radio.

“Me and my sister blast music while we clean the house and dance with brooms and each other,” Finn said, with a grin on her face. “We have way too much fun, especially with dance.”

Finn is about to graduate from the Finn’s house of dancing to a bigger stage, the Jenny Craig Pavilion on the campus of the University of San Diego.

The blond dancer, who recently graduated from Kodiak High School, was one of 24 dancers selected to represent the Toreros spirit team for this upcoming school year.

Finn went through a grueling two-day tryout in April and made the cut from 40 dancers and cheerleaders vying for the same spot.

“I was really nervous,” Finn said, whose mom attended USD for one year. “There were only five freshmen to try out and we all made it. It was kind of nerve-racking because I was the only one from Alaska. When I first got there I really didn’t talk to anybody. I just kind of did my thing.”

That thing she did was good enough to impress the officers of the team.

During tryouts, Finn was taught a jazz and hip-hop routine, in a mere two hours, by professional choreographers.

“They were used to professional dancers and I was kind of shocked when they said ‘Ready and go’ and they just went through it really fast,” Finn said. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, what am I doing?’”

She survived the first day of cuts and later made it through the interview portion to trade in her blue and gold for blue and silver.

It was then that she revealed to the group that she was from The Last Frontier.

“We were all sitting in a circle introducing ourselves and I said ‘I’m Maria from Alaska’ and some girls where like, ‘Whoa,’” Finn said, laughing. “And I was like, ‘I don’t live in an igloo.’”

She will not be alone on the dance team. As it turns out, a sophomore dancer from Soldotna also made the cut.

Finn begins her journey dancing at a NCAA division I school — USD is a member of the West Coast Conference — July 31 when she heads to San Diego for a month-long camp.

The start of the journey.

Her first steps in dance came 12 years ago when Finn’s mom enrolled her daughter in a ballet class at the Little School of Dance.

There Finn got hooked under the guidance of Molly Brodie.

Brodie had just moved to Kodiak and Finn was in her first ballet class.

“Before she came I was so little, I was just running around in a tutu,” Finn said. “She really taught me how it should be and that ballet is really an art. People really underestimate it, which is a shame.”

This summer marks her final class at the Little School of Dance.

“I’ll be sad to see her go,” Brodie said. “But I’m sure she will do great.”

Later on Finn sidestepped into jazz and modern dance, realizing there were other genres.

“Ballet was always my thing,” Finn said. “When I got into high school, I started jazz and hip-hop. I really got into it and thought it was a lot of fun.”

Finn’s first dancing memory came in 1989 in her first, but not last, “Nutcracker.”

“I was one of the Mother Gingers underneath the big skirts,” Finn recalled. “I remember those costumes were just ridiculous. I hated them. A lot of the costumes I had when I was little I look back at and wonder why they did this to us. They are all frilly and not very cute.”

It’s fitting that her fondest moment comes in her last “Nutcracker” two years ago.

“I got Sugar Plum Fairy,” Finn said. “Ever since my first “Nutcracker” I have been looking forward to that role. I was really stoked and excited.”


High school days

“When I got to high school it was a total check for me,” said Finn, who went to grade school at St. Mary’s. “I was in shock of how many people there were. I made the dance team and I met a lot of people. It really helped out, the group of friends that I have now.”

At KHS Finn met her dancing mentor for four years, Joy Green.

Green was the dance coach and teacher at the high school, but has left her position as coach because she was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.

“Mrs. Green has taught me so much, just being a good person and a great teacher,” Finn said. “It was really hard graduating and having her sit there and look at us.

“I love Mrs. Green like my other mom. I think she is great. I really hope she gets better and everything else works out for her.”

Finn was an officer for three of the four years she was on the KHS dance team and was co-captain of this year’s squad.

During that time she has traveled to Mexico, Florida and around Alaska.

“Being on the dance team has given me so many opportunities to travel and see other dancers,” Finn said.

“It was the coolest thing, when after we performed, how many compliments we got,” she added later.

Her biggest thrill came during the Joe Floyd Basketball Tournaments in Kodiak.

“Just cause of the crowd,” Finn said. “They announce the dance team and everybody knows that it is going to be good. It makes you feel really good knowing that people actually stay at halftime instead of getting food.”

As an officer and co-captain, Finn also had an opportunity to choreograph dance routines.

“I just don’t want to repeat myself,” Finn said, on being a choreographer. “It’s a lot of fun, because it’s whatever you want to do. If somebody else is teaching and you don’t like that move, you can’t change it.”

Despite the freedom, Finn would rather take instructions than give.

“I think I like learning from somebody else just cause you can see what they do and how they come up with different moves,” she said.

Even though she is being told what moves to do, she can still add her own flavor, which is why this dancer enjoys moving around.

“If your genre is hip-hop and you’re really good at it, you’re only good at it because you put your own thing into it,” Finn said. “Anybody can do the moves. Putting your own energy into it, your own feel, and making it your own — it feels really good knowing that people like it.”

Moving on

Both Finn’s parents hail from La Jolla, a community inside San Diego’s city limits, and she still has an abundance of family in the area.

But that doesn’t mean she is going to forget about the place where she grew up.

“I’m just going to miss Kodiak,” Finn said. “The drive around when there is nothing else to do, the rainy days, even if they’re a lot and frequent. I love the place to death.”

She hasn’t decided on a major yet, but is leaning toward a degree in communications.

Until she figures her path in life, she is simply going to continue moving to the rhythm.

“I don’t see myself doing this for the rest of my life,” she said, “but it’s definitely something I want to keep doing until I can’t. I’m just going to dance my heart out until I can’t do it anymore.

“It’s been quite the dancing journey and I’ve loved every minute of it.”

Mirror writer Derek Clarkston can be reached via e-mail at sports@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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