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From Timberlake fan to Super Bowl dancer: WF native was tapped to perform at halftime show

West Fargo native Jess Anderson, second from left, with her fellow Hopkins High School dance team coaches at rehearsal for the 2018 Super Bowl performance. Special to the Pioneer. 1 / 3
Recording artist Justin Timberlake performs at halftime in Super Bowl LII between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium. USA Today Sports2 / 3
Rehearsal for the 2018 Super Bowl performance where West Fargo native Jess Anderson performed. Special to the Pioneer. 3 / 3

While a number of area fans were in the U.S. Bank Stadium stands in Minneapolis last weekend to enjoy football's biggest game, one West Fargo native got to join Justin Timberlake on the field.

West Fargo High School grad Jess (Mattern) Anderson was invited to join about 300 dancers who performed alongside popstar Justin Timberlake during the Super Bowl halftime show.

"It was very fun, it was just a surreal opportunity," Anderson said.

Anderson, who is assistant coach for the Hopkins, Minn., High School Dance Team, got word that halftime show organizers were looking for local high school dancers as well as coaches or alumni to audition for the show.

Anderson, along with 28 dancers from her team who were between the ages of 16 and 18, sent in audition tapes and were chosen as part of the massive production.

Like all of the performers, Anderson and her team were required to sign confidentiality agreements, which prevented them from talking about the performance, taking any pictures during rehearsals or posting on social media.

"It was very hard to keep quiet for so long," Anderson said.

The dancers rehearsed off-site and joined Timberlake last week for rehearsals at the U.S. Bank Stadium.

"It was a very intense rehearsal schedule," Anderson said. "We rehearsed many hours. We had to commit to that schedule when we signed on."

A fan of Timberlake back to his boy-band days with the group NSYNC, Anderson had posters of the singer on her bedroom walls as a teen, but never thought she would see him in person. Last week, she found herself just feet from the superstar at times.

"He was there for most of the rehearsals, he needed to run the show. It was pretty surreal, he was just hanging out with us most of the time," Anderson said. "We actually wore [ear mics] so we could hear the music, and we'd wear those for rehearsal and he'd sometimes talk to us."

The 2006 West Fargo High School grad and daughter of West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern has been dancing since she was about 4 years old and danced in the nationally recognized West Fargo Packatahnas for four years.

Before moving to the Twin Cities area where she now works for U.S. Bank, she coached dance teams at Fargo South High School and was the first head dance coach for Davies High School after it opened in 2010.

While Anderson loves coaching, she didn't think her return to performing would come with her students in front of a Super Bowl crowd.

"It has been awhile since I danced. As a performer, you're always chasing that feeling you get, the adrenaline rush, and it's been awhile since I actually did that," Anderson said. "I couldn't have ever dreamed I would be doing this, and I never would have thought I would be on the biggest stage imaginable."

Wendy Reuer

Wendy reports for The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer, where she is also assistant editor. A University of Minnesota Morris graduate from North Dakota, Wendy started her career in television news and entertainment in Minnesota and at CBS in Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

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