It was early January 2020 and College of Saint Benedict dance team captain Kate Dempsey had just returned to campus after vacation.
The new year saw the rest of her final season ahead of her – most notably her final trip to the Universal Dance Association (UDA) National College Championships at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
And that trip would be extra special because she would be doing it with her younger sister Allie, then a first year on the Bennies list.
“It was going to be a really big deal,” said Kate, who, like her sister, is a graduate of Victor J. Andrew High School in Tinley Park, Illinois.
“We were both so excited because we grew up dancing. We’ve been doing it since we were little kids. And now we had the opportunity to compete together in the national competition.”
However, fate had other plans.
“It was our first practice back and we had a big gig planned for the next day,” Kate recalled. “Nationals was only a few weeks away. We were in the last part of our routine when I came out of a corner and landed wrong. I ended up tearing a (anterior cruciate ligament) and a meniscus.”
And with that, her college dance career ended abruptly — as did the chance to travel to Nationals with her sister.
Or so it seemed at the time.
“She tried to play it up and put on a brave face,” said Allie, who is now a senior nutrition major. “I think she wanted to stay strong for me and for the rest of the team. But I knew how difficult it was for her. It was tough for me too. I was really sad.
“It was her last season and we were about to do this great thing together. Then it ended before it even started.”
But dance sometimes brings a second act. And now it’s up to Kate, a computer science student who, after graduating, took a job as a power systems engineer at a Maple Grove software company.
She also stayed connected to dancing and worked as a teacher in a studio while continuing to follow and even help out Allie and her old CSB teammates when possible.
“Because Allie was still here, I kept coming up and watching training sessions and competitions,” Kate said. “And there are times when I’ve been able to provide feedback or just help as extra eyes.”
CSB head coach Anne Sumangil was grateful for the support. So much so that when assistant coach Tori Grootwassink left after last season, she immediately thought of Kate as a replacement.
“We’ve stayed in touch and she’s such a great technical dancer,” Sumangil said. “When Tori left and we were contemplating what to do next, it only made sense to ask Kate to come in.”
Which means Kate and Allie now have a second chance to be part of the same team at the Nationals. CSB – who finished fifth in Open Jazz and seventh in Open Pom at the national meet a year ago – returns to compete in this year’s UDA College Championships on Saturday, January 14th and Sunday, January 15th in Orlando.
The Pom semifinals are scheduled to start at 3:45pm (CST) on Saturday, with the jazz semifinals at 5:59pm (CST) (although these times can range from 30 minutes early to an hour late depending on as the competition progressed). The times for the final on Sunday will be announced the day before. But the time block scheduled for Pom is 8:00am to 10:15am CST and the time block scheduled for Jazz is 11:30am to 1:30pm CST for Jazz.
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“It’s been so amazing to have (Kate) back, especially as this is my final season,” Allie said. “It means I get a chance to share that experience with her. She really has a great technical eye and she’s been a huge help to all of us as a team. She knows her stuff.”
Kate said she also enjoyed having the chance to coach her sister.
“I thought it might be a little awkward, but it really wasn’t at all,” she said. “Allie is always very professional in everything she does and we have such a great relationship that we are able to split the different parts of our lives. When training begins, we are coaches and athletes. But once it’s over, she’ll come over and talk to me about her day and we’ll be sisters again.”
And both sisters are now focused on helping the Bennies fight for a national title.
“I think everyone on this team is really excited to go there and see what we can do,” Allie said. “We are convinced of ourselves. The fire is burning and we are ready to go.”
“This is going to be great,” Kate added. “The last time I was with the national teams, I sat on crutches and watched my teammates perform. To have the chance to go back there now and coach not just Allie but the entire team is amazing.
“I am so grateful.”