'Something I love to do': Only boy on Fargo South's dance team finds his groove
FARGO -- When Blaize Shiek was in middle school, he was ready to leave the house one morning dressed in sweatpants and cowboy boots. His mother Becky tried to convince him the two didn't go together, but he was undeterred, never a kid to be conce...
FARGO - When Blaize Shiek was in middle school, he was ready to leave the house one morning dressed in sweatpants and cowboy boots.
His mother Becky tried to convince him the two didn't go together, but he was undeterred, never a kid to be concerned with what people thought about him, she said.
But once attending Fargo South High School, when Blaize said he might try out for the Bruinkix Dance Team, she was terrified for him.
"He was made fun of before he started dance, so I thought, 'Is it going to get worse?'" she said.
Blaize not only tried out for the team, but he made it. Now, as a junior, he's in his second season with Bruinkix - the first and only boy performing with the otherwise all-girl dance squad.
The teasing has faded. With his dancing skills and affinity for high jumps and flips, Blaize and his classmates realize he belongs out there.
"Just showing people that you can do what you love, and just go for it," he said.
Other boys, however, have not been able to realize that dream to dance.
Kaiden Johnson, a sophomore in Superior, Wis., was barred from dancing with his high school team last winter at a competition sanctioned by the Minnesota State High School League.
A California nonprofit group, the Pacific Legal Foundation, recently took up his case.
Lawyers sent a letter to the Minnesota league on Tuesday, Oct. 10, threatening a federal lawsuit if the league did not change its all-girls policy for dance teams. They called the rule unconstitutional discrimination based on sex, and a violation of Johnson's right to equal protection.
Competitive dance is not a sanctioned high school sport in North Dakota, and Blaize is thankful to not have similar obstacles.
"I would be kind of offended because it's just not really one gender that can do the sport. Boys should be able to do it, too, if they want," he said.
Recruited to dance
Blaize started gymnastics as a toddler and took to it immediately.
As the years went by, he continued flipping and dancing on the side but also got involved in basketball, baseball and track.
A knee injury sidelined him for a time, and as it healed, he started playing around with dance and gymnastics again.
His moves caught the eye of his friends on the Bruinkix team, and they began recruiting him, as did coach Mariah Tweeton. Blaize was hesitant because he didn't want to be bullied for doing what's mostly known as a sport for girls in high school.
He did endure some teasing early on.
"It made me sad because it's something I love to do. I didn't get judged when I was doing basketball or baseball," he said.
But after his debut dance with the team last year at the school's pep fest, he's received nothing but compliments and support.
"Lots of people say when we're dancing, they can't take their eyes off of him," said teammate Cambrya Englund, who's one of Blaize's best friends.
Inspiring a new generation
Being the only boy on an otherwise all-girls team has its challenges - from having to modify costumes to getting a separate hotel room when traveling.
Beyond that, Blaize has fit right in, according to one of the senior captains, Daysha Fliginger.
"We all click so well, so it's never, ever once been weird," Fliginger said. "It's all about dance, and he's just another one of us."
The Bruinkix squad is an upper-class dominated one this year, including eight seniors, so recruiting will be important in the next few years.
Coach Tweeton may have Blaize to thank for inspiring a new generation.
A couple of boys have joined the dance team at Carl Ben Eielson, where Tweeton coached before signing on with Bruinkix.
"Those two little boys in middle school, they specifically said 'I'm on this team, because I look up to Blaize,' so it's really cool to have him bring that to our team," Tweeton said.
The team's next performance will be at a competition it's hosting.
Dance-A-Palooza is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12, at Fargo South. The team is also preparing for a national competition in Florida in February.
Blaize's mom is proud of him for pursuing his passion and can't wait to see him perform.
"It just brings so much joy to watch him," Becky Shiek said.