NB branch dance studio combines success and support

Tight-knit group brings home national honors

Khyah Harper, 10;, Sydney Sterbentz, 12;, Alexis Houle, 10;, and Mercedey Harper, 12, of North Branch, practice their Russian leaps at Desiree’s Dance Studios in North Branch during try-outs for the 2013-14 season last week.  Photo by Kat Ladwig

Khyah Harper, 10;, Sydney Sterbentz, 12;, Alexis Houle, 10;, and Mercedey Harper, 12, of North Branch, practice their Russian leaps at Desiree’s Dance Studios in North Branch during try-outs for the 2013-14 season last week.
Photo by Kat Ladwig

On June 16, 100-plus dancers from Desiree’s Dance Studio in North Branch traveled more than 650 miles to compete in the Spotlight Dance Cup Nationals in Branson, Mo.

Just before the contest began, studio owner Desiree Harper wanted to make sure her athletes were focused for the “big show.” After all, there were more than 900 routines across 16 performance categories in which to compete.

“They formed a circle and prayed,” Harper said. “They prayed for everyone’s safety, for having fun and for, no matter what happens, coming off the stage happy — it’s their little dance prayer circle.”

To Harper, that display of unity among dancers is what drove her to open the dance studio 10 years ago. And the positive energy worked. DDS represented nine lines over two categories (hip hop and jazz), earned two national titles, scored seven diamonds (highest possible) in line routines and two diamonds in solo routines while in Branson.

Harper teared up when discussing the results of nationals.

“I told myself I wouldn’t do this,” she said. “I’m just proud.”

Not only did the majority of the lines earn diamonds, four routines were chosen to advance for the championship extravaganza, similar to a winner’s bracket of competition where placement is determined.

Both the Crew Line (ages 5-11) and Jamz Line (first-years, ages 9-12) took top honors as the highest scorers. The Ruby Line (second years, ages 9-12) took third and fourth in the championship extravaganza.

The 2012-13 season marks DDS’s sixth year participating in a national competition.

When Harper’s studio first opened, she had fewer than 100 students. Today, DDS teaches more than 300 dancers.

In opening her studio, Harper emulated her family: three of her sisters owned dance studios, with two still open in Lino Lakes and Shakopee. Harper’s mom, Rosanne Lovenz, danced as part of a two-person act before coaching dance at Centennial High School for 16 years and also owned her own dance studio.

Entrepreneurship doesn’t just stop with Harper. Her husband, Brett, owns Xplode Fitness in North Branch, next door to DDS. Their kids Mercedey, 12; Khyah, 10; Maverick, 7; and Krewz, 5, all dance at DDS.

With tryouts already under way for their 11th season, Harper and her 10 dance instructors are preparing for another year with their dance family.

“This is what I envisioned — a family of dancers,” Harper said. “The No. 1 thing is that they all support each (other) and have fun. I’m so lucky to have thankful kids here.”

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