MN dance team photographers say postseason access has been slashed

Minnesota photographers say their access is being severely restricted during the postseason for high school dance, and it's affecting students and their parents.

Alyssa Kristine, who is contracted to follow 12 high school dance teams throughout their seasons, said she was assured repeatedly that her access would be the same as last year. But last Friday, the day before sections, she said she was told by the Minnesota State High School League the amount of video she could take was being restricted and she couldn't take any photos. She said she was told she could only sit in one chair to film among other limitations.

"I would be relegated to ‘video only’ in a designated performance chair on the floor. I could not shoot anything from the bleachers. I could shoot performances only up to three minutes and then the camera had to be turned off, and I had to exit and sit in the general admission area," Kristine said.

A former dancer herself, she’s been filming dance for a decade, spending hours with the students and even, in some cases, learning their routines so she can film them better.

"I'm not doing this for me and it's not about my livelihood. It's about the fact that some of these kids danced for the last time and they don't have anything to show for it," she told FOX 9 in an interview.

For Chanhassen seniors Alexis Laramy and Riley Wolf, Saturday was the last dance of their high school career.

"To not have any of that footage, none of the hugs, none of the talks before and after: Those are the moments that I look back on and are some of my favorite moments. To not have that captured my senior year was really disappointing," Wolf said.

"It was honestly like shocking and disappointing just because [Alyssa Kristine] had been with us through this whole season," Laramy said of her team photographer.

Kristine also filmed the Hopkins Dance Team. On that day, they qualified for state for the first time in 11 years.

"We've worked so hard since October to put these routines together. As captains leading our team, we just really want all those moments to be captured and we can look back on 10, 15 years and show our kids," said Hopkins senior Jahzarah Hall.

The dancers said their parents did their best to take photos and video from the stands, but it's not just the sentimental moments they're missing.

"Alyssa is able to capture moments that we also like to watch back in order to make sure that we all look alike and we're all in sync and that we're all doing what we can in a more competitive team," said Hopkins senior Camryn McNeal. "What she does she doesn't do like anyone else, which is why she is so credited in the community."

FOX 9 asked the Minnesota State High School League multiple times what the intent was of this policy and the specific date it was adopted. However, the league has not answered those questions.

Instead, a league spokesperson sent guidance explaining that every dance program has the opportunity to select a team video operator who can video their routine and awards, but they must follow all policies and guidelines. Additionally, the state tournament will be streamed and all teams can request a copy. The league also says it employs its own photographers and photos are available for the public to purchase.

"Due to the short duration and the intensity of the routines, two photographers will be used at our state dance preliminaries and finals to ensure strong photo coverage of each team," the guidance read.