Highsteppers ready to ‘shock’ the competition

The dance troupe is gearing up for a competition in Kansas City on Saturday.
Friday, April 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:41 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

In tandem, 40 children, third-graders through seniors, brought their knees up high and kept beats on drums at the Blind Boone Center on Thursday night.

The Mid-Missouri Highsteppers were preparing to compete in the “Making the Planet Rock” drill team competition in Kansas City on Saturday. There will be 11 teams from across the country. Tyrone Raybon, assistant director of the Highsteppers, is confident the team will do well in the competition.

“Our style is unique,” Raybon said. “We’ve got an edge on everyone else.”

The competition opens today with a drum-off, in which the Highsteppers will have a veteran drummer, Max Ware, performing. Raybon said the “drumline is what usually makes the team” and this year the team finally has a chance at winning.

“We’re going to shock a whole lot of drill teams because our weakest part has always been our drumline.”

This is the first competition in which this particular group of Highsteppers has competed.

“It’s going to change this generation’s life forever,” Raybon said, remembering the first time he competed with the group and realized Highsteppers was more than just performing.

“We want to teach them sportsmanship and how to act,” he said. “It’s good if you do win and it’s good if you don’t. You always have something to learn.”

To prepare for the event, the team put in extra hours perfecting its routine, which has to be under nine minutes. Raybon said he was impressed at the dedication the kids have shown and that many of them spent their spring break practicing.

“We have a series of routines we always do,” Raybon said. “We just try to change the format.”

For Saturday’s routine, Raybon said he came to the group with a “mainframe” and then allowed them to add their own bits and pieces to make the routine a group collaboration.

The Highsteppers were formed in 1979 by Rolando Barry, the group’s director. Barry said the team’s mission is to give the children something positive to do with their time and make them realize they are responsible for their own actions. Children learn a creed about respect and in exchange he teaches them to dance and play drums, he said.

The Highsteppers have been recognized nationally the past few years for both their skilled routines and their ability to reach out to inner city kids.

If the Highsteppers win Saturday’s competition, the group will compete in Minnesota, and then possibly at the national level in New York, Raybon said.

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