State champion dancer is a trailblazer in high school dance

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- In our newscasts we often have reports about women and girls who are jumping into sports or other fields that have long been arenas for men and boys. This week in our weekly spotlight on outstanding young people, meet a boy who is doing the groundbreaking, by performing and competing in an activity usually done by girls.

The Beartrackers of William Chrisman High School get a lot of positive response when they perform and compete. People admire their skill and precision along with their enthusiasm. And there's another big reason why the Chrisman High dance team is drawing a lot of attention these days.

"I like when they yell," said sophomore Tanner Frisbey of audience reaction when the team performs. "When an audience is really interactive with you dancing, they're oohing and aahing and just really into what you're doing, it pushes you. You go beyond what you thought you could do."

Yes, one of the Beartrackers doing high kicks and shaking golden pompoms is a boy. Tanner Frisbey is in his second year as a member of the Chrisman High dance team.

"I thought when I first came on as a freshman it was, I was going to get made fun of or stuff like that but I'd say my school has been really supportive," said Tanner.

"It's a challenge," said eartracker coach Diane Johnson-Bennett. "There's the stigma of, 'Oh, what's he doing on the dance team?' And Tanner embraces it."

Johnson-Bennett says Tanner is a trailblazer in high school dance, an activity that's traditionally been for girls. He is a first for Chrisman High and one of very few on dance and pom squads in the metro or nationwide.

"I feel when I go out there I get to represent," said Tanner. "It's like maybe opening the doors for other guys and maybe for them to go on the dance team or a step team."

Tanner is not just an oddity. He is a real talent, a showman, and a smart. He's a leader on the Beartrackers already as a sophomore. And Tanner's been winning district, regional and state competitions with innovative contemporary dance solos that he choreographs himself.

"He's well respected," said Johnson-Bennett. "When they saw, exactly, his talent, not just, 'I can go out and do tumbles, back summersaults, back flips with no hands. I can dance. And I'm a vital part of the team and a vital part to the student body here at Chrisman, as well.'"

Tanner also dances at a high level apart from the Beartrackers. He's been impressing audiences and event judges as a member of the competition team at Studio J School of Dance in Independence where he studies and he rehearses several nights each week.

"I want to pursue it as a career," said Tanner. Tanner's been going to major showcases to be seen by big name dance school instructors. He hopes to get into Pace University in New York City on his way to that professional career, where being a guy in dance won't be unusual at all and where he can be even more of a role model for more boys to take it up.

This past weekend at the Missouri state high school dance team championships Tanner was named an All-State performer and won first place in the sophomore division. And the Beartrackers took fourth place in the kick segment of the competition and fifth in pom. Meantime, boys are breaking new ground in other ways at William Chrisman High School. There is a boy on the school's flag corps and on the cheer team.

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