That Moment I Felt Famous (Almost)

Last weekend, we were at the Masquerade Dance competition. While I could spend a whole day writing about all the reasons I love Masquerade (and still will), I wanted to focus on one part of Sunday that was so much fun, and so bizarre!

After a LONG day, it was finally almost time for the awards ceremony. They were about an hour ahead, and decided to call moms up on stage. I have been to enough competitions, I knew they were going to do a dance off. It is usually done with dads, but since there had just been a huge Dad’s dance, they said it was the moms’ turns.

As soon as they asked for moms to come up, a bunch of the girls my daughter dances with turned around and told me I should go up. I hesitated. Not because I wouldn’t love to go onstage, but because I thought my daughter would be embarrassed.

She is 14 – this means every time I choose to be in her presence, she’s embarrassed by me. It’s ok, she often chooses to come hang out with me too, but it has to be on her time. I don’t get too offended… I know I was the same way at her age.

Our "lame" Dance Moms picture.

Our “lame” Dance Moms picture.

All weekend, whenever I wanted to take a picture or anything, she rolled her eyes at me. When I wanted to have a picture taken with the other dance moms, she thought it was lame… I did it anyway. I was afraid she might actually die if I went on stage and danced!

A few minutes went by, and a couple moms finally went on stage. They wanted at least one from each studio… eventually, every studio was represented, except Lake Area Dance Center (LADC). The girls were still trying to get me to go on stage, and I still hesitated. I figured, I am going to be in the recital this year, let another mom have a turn… none volunteered.

All the sudden, I hear my name being called over the PA. I asked the girls who said that, and they all said, “GRACE!” I said, “OK… if she asked for it…” I had to take off my socks that I had put on with my sandals, because I was freezing in the balcony. Then, I heard Miss Maria say my name… It took a while to get down to the stage, because I was in the top row of the balcony… by the time I got to the 2nd floor, it sounded like the entire auditorium was chanting my name. I can’t even explain what a bizarre feeling that is!!

I got down to stage level, and got a hug from Miss Maria! Finally, I was on stage, and the dance off began. The stage crew chose the moms to go on to round 2. I made it to the second round! It was so cool to see dancers from our studio in the wings, and in front of the stage, cheering me on!

Was trying to show my LADC spirit by holding up my jacket, but held it up backwards. DOH!

Was trying to show my LADC spirit by holding up my jacket, but held it up backwards. DOH!

Getting to round 3 proved much more difficult. It was audience choice. This pretty much meant, the biggest studios went on to round 3, because they had more voices to scream with. While I got some pretty loud cheers, I couldn’t compete with the larger studios. The decibels their voices created were almost deafening! I’m surprised no glass cracked anywhere! ;-)

So, I didn’t make it to round 3, but I had fun in the process. My daughter wasn’t embarrassed, she was actually proud. WOW! Several dance moms thanked me for representing our studio. One mom said I’m officially designated to represent the LADC dance moms from now on. As long as my daughter doesn’t mind, I’m more than happy to represent!! :-)

Legacy Dance Championships – 2015

085The weekend of April 15, Lake Area Dance Center (LADC) attended the Legacy Dance Championships. This competition was held at the Ames Center in Burnsville, MN.

Legacy is a logistically well-run competition. They stayed pretty close to on-time most of the weekend. They really didn’t go out of order. Awards sessions were very business-like, and moved fast. They do not focus so much on the fun aspect as other competitions we have been to.

While this isn’t my favorite competition, I did appreciate that they made it easy to follow the program by going in order. I also appreciated that there was a place in the program to track awards; it makes it so much easier when the awards ceremony goes so fast.

The only note I had in my program about the awards ceremony, is that while the judges were giving their awards, they kept the background music turned up. It was difficult to hear what they were saying. They seemed to be having music issues all weekend, with the music turning down in the middle of dances. I think it was actually the sound people from the Ames Center having the issue, not the competition company. It was very distracting for the dancers though.

legacy award 2015

Lake Area Dance was awarded the Legacy Award for 12 and under. This means they were the highest scoring studio of the day for juniors and under. What a huge honor!

Our first day at Legacy was Thursday night for teen solos. They must have had a microphone on and cranked up to catch the tap sounds. You could almost hear them over the music. We could also hear the judges talking during the dances. Grace was very nervous, because Music General was at this competition. They are amazing tappers, and have a very cool style that Grace admires. Maria did not let her get psyched out, and Grace did very well. She scored an Elite Gold (high gold), as did most of her team members that had solos that night. It made her day to have Savanna O. from Music General (who was directly before, and won 1st overall) tell her that she did a great job!

The next day we were there, was Saturday for large groups. Because of the way the age cut offs worked, they were in the junior division. First up was lyrical. They did awesome! They got platinum, and 2nd overall! Next up, was jazz. They looked great. They got platinum, and 7th overall. Their last large group dance was tap. They also got platinum, and took 5th overall.

Towards the end of a long day, dancers (and their teacher) were getting silly. I love to see them having fun with Miss Maria!

Towards the end of a long day, dancers (and their teacher) were getting silly. I love to see them having fun with Miss Maria!

The 2nd half of the day was small groups. Their tap small group was great! The audience was really into it, which makes it even more fun! They got a platinum score, and 3rd overall.

Sunday was the last day of the competition. LADC had their production dance that day. They werked it (yes, I spelled it that way on purpose)! They got platinum, and got 1st place for Intermediate teen production.

The judges didn’t seem to interact with the dancers very much. They were barely visible during awards, and didn’t seem to be interested in some of the dances. That was frustrating.

Despite the frustration, this competition was fun to attend, mainly because there was such great competition! Some of the dances I enjoyed most came from Music General, Premiere Dance Academy, and Delmonico Dance.

It was fun to watch our teens and seniors step up to the challenge of competing at the advanced level. Because of the schedule, I didn’t get to see many of our younger dancers, but I know they did very well as well.


Hall of Fame Dance Challenge – 2015

Now that we are going into the final regional dance competition of the year, I should catch up on blogging about our season so far!

071The first weekend of April, Lake Area Dance Center attended the Hall of Fame Dance Challenge. Each year, this competition seems to get bigger and longer. The competition started on Wednesday, and went through Sunday. There were two stages going, almost the entire time.


One of the things I really enjoy about this competition is that they have a live stream. People who don’t want to drive downtown St. Paul and pay for parking, could still watch their teammates, grandchildren, or friends dance online. Grace didn’t have to the first few days of the competition. Since the best of the best studios in the Twin Cities tend to participate in this competition, we were pretty much glued to the Live Stream, watching all the dances!

080On Saturday, Lake Area Dance Center performed their production number. It was the first time I had gotten to see it. I don’t know how Miss Maria does it – putting almost 70 dancers in the same dance, all on stage at the same time for the ending! WOW! There were a couple of great dances in their category. They got a Precision Judges’ Award, 1st place platinum, and 1st overall for Teen National (intermediate) Lines! That night, Grace did her solo. She was, again, competing in the American (elite) teen tap division. She did very well. While she didn’t place in the overalls (there were 74 solos she was competing against), she got a platinum score. I was very proud of her!

Sunday, Grace had her tap small group, and all 3 of her large group dances. All four dances looked fantastic! This was the first time competing at the elite level for our small and large groups. We were all nervous about how it would go. The level of dancing is extraordinary, and our girls held their own! Grace’s small group scored a platinum. The teen tap large group got a Judges’ Award for Precision, and scored a 1st place platinum. Their lyrical dance scored a high gold (though, in my opinion, it should have been platinum). Their jazz dance scored a platinum as well. Their dances did not score in the overall top 10, but with studios such as Larkin, Northern Force, Kinkade Dance Industries,  and Woodbury Dance Center as the competition, I’d say they did just fine! Grace’s 2nd cousin (or something like that), dances for Studio 4, it was fun to get to see most of her dances as well!

The teens, playing cards to kill time during a long wait between small groups and large groups.

The teens, playing cards to kill time during a long wait between small groups and large groups.


There is one thing that bothers me about Hall of Fame every year. They perpetually run WAY ahead of schedule. While it’s great for the dancers, like Grace, who are scheduled to dance late at night, it’s not great for the family members who want to watch. On Saturday, they were an hour and a half ahead of schedule, and they were going out of order. Our dancers were scheduled to dance at 5:22. My husband figured he should get there at 4, “just to be safe.” He sent me a text at 4:06 saying he was waiting for the elevator at the parking garage, and would be in the auditorium soon. Our production dance was just finishing up. To say he was livid about missing it, when he was there that early, would be an understatement!! I heard several people talking about how relatives who had come to see dancers (from several studios), missed the dances they had come to see. Hall of Fame has been hosting competitions long enough, they should be able to adjust the timing in the schedules somewhat to a more realistic expectation. The saving grace, was that Cossetta’s is just down the street. We were able to have a family dinner between production and Grace’s solo.

The other thing that I tend to complain about every year, is that the program does not have pages to keep track of awards on. This competition does a lot of great awards, including Best of Category, MVP, and more… it would be really nice if they gave us a place to write them all!

One final note on things that were annoying at worst at Hall of Fame, was the emcee. I know it’s a long weekend… By the end, the judges were tired, the staff was tired, the dancers were tired. His job is to try to keep the competition/awards programs fun and high energy. It just felt like he tried a little too hard. His attempts at getting the dancers hyped up for awards was annoying, though I know he was just doing his job. By the end, he acknowledged that everyone was tired, and asked if they wanted to just get on with it. I think all the parents appreciated this. Way to try, buddy…


Many parents were confused by the scoring at this competition. I remember being confused my first year or two there too… Here’s how it all worked.

First, the “Leagues”: There were 3 leagues. Rookie is the same as recreational. National is the same as intermediate. American is elite. Within each of these divisions, dances were not only divided by style of dance, but also by age. Our studio has dancers at each of the different divisions. Divisions are determined mostly by the number of hours per week dancers study.

Next, the adjudication. Every dance was given a score. At the beginning of each awards session, they go through each dance and give it a ranking based on a range of scores. The lowest possible score is High Silver, then Gold, then High Gold, and Platinum. In the American league (ages 9 and older) only, there is a higher score called Grand Slam. Few dances received a Grand Slam, but wow, that’s a high score (293.5-300)!

Within each category (i.e Teen, Large Group, Tap, Age 13, American League), there was a 1st place winner. This is not the same as 1st overall. In order to be a category winner, a dance had to receive at least a high gold or higher. Because categories were so divided up, there were many 1st place platinums or 1st place high golds. I think this is where many people got confused.

Despite the annoyances, this is still a fun competition to watch! There are so many amazing studios and dancers competing, it was well worth attending (or watching online)!

Walk Your A.S. Off

For four years, my daughter and I have danced at Lake Area Dance Center. Over the years, we have gotten to know its owner, and primary teacher, Miss Maria, pretty well. We’ve also gotten to know a bit about a disease she has, Ankylosing Spondylitis (A.S.), that makes it painful for her to not only dance, but often do every day activities. Some days are better, and some days are worse. By the end of many nights, it is painful for her to even sit, as her spine gets enflamed easily. She continues to teach dance 7 days a week. Although she tries to hide her pain, I sometimes see her wince during our adult tap class, and I can see the brave face she is putting on for the sake of her students.

As of right now, there is no cure for this disease. Miss Maria takes a plethora of medications and vitamins every day to try to manage the symptoms. She has tried diet changes, juicing, and living a “healthy lifestyle” as many people like to tell her she should do. Nothing helps completely…

She has joined a team (of mostly women) from all over the country to help raise awareness of the disease. I have decided to join her in this effort. The way we are doing this is by joining a movement called “Walk Your A.S. Off.” Teams from all over the world are doing this virtual walk by logging our steps each day. The goal for our team, “Spondy Ladies”, is to walk 1 Million Steps in the month of April.

While fundraising is not required, I am of the opinion that awareness itself isn’t enough. Raising money to help researchers find effective treatments, and even a cure, is going to go so much further than walking and spreading the word about the disease alone!

You can help by joining our team, or by donating. You can donate a flat amount by clicking the link, or by giving me a check made out to SAA or Spondylitis Association of America, which I will mail for you. You can also pledge a certain amount based on the number of steps I take over the month, or a certain amount for making my goal (240K steps is my personal goal for the month). Donations are tax-deductible. Some employers may even match your donation!

Thank you for your support!

*Note: There are several S.A. organizations out there you could choose to donate to. SAA is the one Miss Maria chose, and I did as well. If you prefer to donate to a different organization that researches treatments and potential cures for Ankylosing Spondylitis, your support is appreciated. :-)

Star Systems 2015

One of the photos purchased at the competition.

One of the photos purchased at the competition.

This past weekend, Grace danced in her first competition of the season. This was an optional competition for solos, duets/trios, and a couple of select small groups. Since Star Systems is a smaller competition than most of the others we usually attend, I thought it would be a good opportunity for her to get one under her belt before the main competition season starts. This was her first time ever competing with a solo, and she is competing in the Elite level (called Super Star at this competition). All week, and weekend leading up to competing, Grace went back and forth between being nervous, and excited.

The juniors and one of our seniors competed Friday night, A couple of duets, mini/petite solos, and our hip hop small groups competed on Saturday. Grace and two other teens from Lake Area Dance Center (LADC) competed Sunday night. We did not go any other day, but Sunday. Results though, were great! Many platinum scores and overall placements were given to LADC dancers and groups. Two of our hip hop small group placed first in the overalls, something I have rarely seen!

Grace, Paige, and Niki, all ready to compete at the Elite Level for the first time.

Grace, Paige, and Niki, all ready to compete at the Elite Level for the first time.

We got to the competition at about 3:45 on Sunday, 3 hours before Grace was scheduled to dance. We had plenty of time to get her hair and makeup ready. I have to say, now that she’s older, and can do her own makeup, it’s kind of nice! I did her hair.

From the time we got there, through the end of the night, it was ALL solos. The Shining Star (often called Recreational) division was going when we got there. The solos continued through the Shooting Star (Intermediate) division in all the different styles… Grace’s solo is a tap dance, which started out the Super Star division. There were a couple of dances before her. The one immediately before her was a GOOOOOOD tapper (she ended up getting 2nd overall). Talk about making for a nervous Mama!

My favorite photo of the day.

My favorite photo of the day.

We generally do not watch many solos, just those from our studio, if we are there on those days, or at Nationals.  Last year, we watched the finalists at StarQuest, and were amazed at the dancing! It was a bit scary to think my daughter, a first time soloist, was going to be competing against the likes of those dancers. I tried really hard not to show her how nervous I was for her. She had worked hard, and I knew she was ready. Still, every possible “what if” goes through your head when you are watching your kid do something for the first time. On facebook, I saw a picture that said “Dance like no one is watching… ’cause they’re not… they’re busy checking their phones.” She and I had a good laugh about that! I told her it didn’t matter how she placed, as long as she did her best.

They stayed mostly on schedule. I was surprised a few times when they would have to call dancers over the loud speaker, or say, “We are skipping ahead because no one else is checked in.” I couldn’t tell if it was the studios that weren’t as organized, or if it was the competition company. Maybe that’s just typical of some of the smaller competitions. Things mostly flowed pretty well though.

Grace - Platinum, Paige - Elite High Gold, Niki - Platinum

Grace – Platinum, Paige – Elite High Gold, Niki – Platinum

When Grace went on stage, she gave it her all! She has an amazing prop that lights up. For a second, it didn’t go on. At the same time, she started doing a different part of her dance (which I didn’t realized until she told me afterwards)… She stopped on top of the box for a split second, stomped, and at that second, the box lit up, and she kept going. If her face hadn’t showed that she had “messed up”, it easily could have just been part of the dance. What’s funny, is that she didn’t even know the box didn’t light up… Oh well, mistakes happen. She did so well!!  I was very proud of her!

A few dances after Grace, her friend Paige from her dance team went. Paige’s dance is a jazz dance, in which she makes flexibility look easy! A few dances after that, Ali (their dance teacher’s daughter) went. She did a jazz dance that exudes power. Finally, of the dancers we knew, Niki, from Grace and Paige’s dance team went. She performed a beautiful lyrical piece!

Grace with her dance teacher and choreographer, Maria.

Grace with her dance teacher and choreographer, Maria.

We waited until awards, which were pretty much right on time. We were all SO excited to hear Grace got a platinum score! Paige got an Elite High Gold score, Ali and Niki both got platinum. Ali has been competing at the Elite Level for quite a while, and it was no surprise to any of us that she got platinum and 9th overall (out of 62 dances). The other three have never competed Elite. We were all thrilled by their wonderful results!

I was surprised there were no “extra” or “Judges’ Awards” given during the awards ceremony. No costume or choreography awards were given either. Maybe they only do those for large group dances?

Anyway, this was a great start to the competition season. I can’t wait for the next one!



Twin Cities Rumble – 2015

About half of the group competing in the Mega Team Form.

About half of the group competing in the Mega Team Form.

The rest of the group competing in the Mega Team Form.

The rest of the group competing in the Mega Team Form.

A few weeks ago, my son attended the Twin Cities Rumble karate tournament. This was the first tournament that Forte’s Karate was part of the production (behind the scenes).  It was also the first tournament where they did a Mega Team Form. The youngest member of the team form was about 7, the oldest were in their 40’s. It was very fun to watch this huge group consisting of children, some of their parents, and even three of the teachers compete together. For their first time doing this, I thought they looked very good! They were quite together. They took 2nd place.

Several members of Team Forte with their 2nd place trophy for their Mega Team Form.

Several members of Team Forte with their 2nd place trophy.

After the Team form, we had a LOOONG wait until Michael had to compete again. The Team Forms were first at about 9:30 -10. The black belts go first, so they are ready to judge when they are done… It’s always fun watching them compete – there are some amazing competitors in the circuit! We always look forward to watching  Mr. Hallberg spar!

Michael was supposed to compete shortly after 1, I think it was at least 2:30 (if not later) before his division went. I know we were one of the very last groups there, and weren’t done until close to 4:30 or 5.

Three red-brown belts, ages 8-9, from the same school, competing in the same form division.

Jacob, Mason, and Michael, three red-brown belts, ages 8-9, from the same school, competing in the same form division.

My son’s division is pretty large, 8-9 year old red/brown belts. Michael had just graduated to brown belt, a week or so before the tournament. Because he had already been registered as an advanced red belt, he competed as advanced red. There are very few brown belts in this division, and because it’s red/brown, it didn’t affect where he would compete.

It’s always interesting to watch when kids from our school are competing against each other. In Michael’s age group, there were three. They cheer for each other, but are also trying to win. At the same time, they don’t care when they are beat by a team mate. They are proud of each other’s accomplishments! It makes me feel proud of them to see the great sportsmanship! :-) Michael doesn’t really care what he gets. He just has fun competing.

Michael's kicks amaze me, every time!

Michael’s kicks amaze me, every time!

Michael did a different form than the other two boys. He was nervous, and he rushed it a bit. His technique is great, he just needs those reminders to slow down, breathe, yell, and do what he knows how to do. That advice can’t come from a parent! ;-)  Michael got a medal for being a finalist in form. He didn’t place in the top 4, oh well. His team mates took 2nd and 4th.

They usually end up having to split this large group, at least for sparring. I almost think there would be enough to just have 8 year olds in one ring, and 9 year olds in another. They’d probably still have to split those 9 year olds! Another way they could split them would be to split red and advance red/brown belts. When they split them for sparring, they try to make sure kids from the same school don’t end up going against each other. Occasionally, it does happen, but they try to split them.

Michael did great in sparring! He won his first match. There are two boys from Team Edge that tend to be the ones he goes against for first place.  The scores are always close, and the matches could go either way. While they are always good matches, Michael usually ends up taking 2nd. The parents of both Team Edge boys are great! We always chat, and they are great promoters of sportsmanship with their competitors.

What could have been different

As mentioned above, it ended up being a long day! Registration was kind of a mess. At the time team forms were supposed to be starting, there was still a looong line of competitors waiting to sign waivers and get their admission bracelets. In addition to the participants, were all the spectators… Most of the participants were already registered ahead of time. I’m not sure why waivers weren’t part of the registration process. For dance competitions, a waiver is often sent to the dance studio ahead of time for parents to sign. For the one coming up, for example, a waiver containing a list of participants was sent to studio, and parents had to sign on the line for their student. For other karate tournaments my son has participated in, bracelets were sent ahead of time, speeding up the registration at the door of the event.

Being that this was the first time this particular group has put on this tournament together, I’m sure they learned a few things to do differently, and will improve for next time. I have been a part of putting on large events, and the bummer is when these snafus happen, especially at registration, and scare away potential future participants.

What I really appreciated at the end of the day, was when they split up the group for sparring, they moved our group to another ring. One of the organizers came over apologizing for the long delay. He thanked us for staying, and for our patience. It sounds like there were many contributing factors to the limited use of all the rings they had set up, including that some of the people they were expecting to judge during the day left, instead of staying to judge. In addition to that, they had many more competitors than they originally expected. You can see the problem these two factors together can create.We were very thankful for those that stayed and worked very hard judging and trying to get through all the groups as quickly as possible.

Organizing any event can be stressful. I can’t imagine all the things going on behind the scenes as they tried to make everything flow smoothly! It has been my experience that each time a group puts on a major event, there are bumps in the road the first couple of tries. Each time, it gets better, and things run a little more smoothly, until eventually, it all flows like a well-oiled machine! I expect that this will be the case with this tournament, and these organizers. I hope Michael wants to continue competing long enough to see it get to that point! :-)

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 39,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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