Spring Dance Recital – Behind the Scenes

Practicing the finale at dress rehearsal

Practicing the finale at dress rehearsal

Putting on a dance recital is a lot of work! This year, I was blessed to spend even more time behind the scenes. Though, what I did to help out was small in the grand scheme of the show!

Recital Preparations

I can’t even imagine how much time the dance teachers put in to coming up with a theme, choosing the music (some had to be cut and/or edited as well), and choreographing dances in several different styles: tap, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, ballet, hip hop, and musical theater. Then, teachers had to choose costumes. This is a tough job, when you are trying to remain age appropriate, choose costumes to fit the dances, and for competitive dances, choose costumes that will be unique. Once those pieces came together, there was choosing a logo/backdrop for the show, choosing recital shirt artwork, the writing and recording of the show announcements… none of this even touches the dealing with dates, facilities, lighting, etc…

As recital time gets closer, families start to order their tickets for the various shows. This year, Lake Area Dance Center did 4 shows: two “regular” shows with both competitive and recreational students; then, there was a solo showcase, which featured all the solos from petite through teen dancers (and a couple of duets); finally, was the Gala, which featured all the competitive large groups, small groups, and the senior solos.

Miss Maria (studio owner) prints all her own tickets for the shows. I volunteered to help cut them all apart and organize them by row. I volunteered to take them home to work on them. I figured it might take me a couple hours. I was WRONG!!! It took me about 10+ hours to cut and organize them (and yes, that was cutting through 2-3 sheets of cardstock at a time)! I was shocked at how long it took. Once I got all the tickets cut, Maria and her husband (who usually helps her cut them all apart), had to assign seats to all the families who pre-ordered tickets.

Other behind the scenes items that take place are: making sure flowers are available for audience members to purchase for their favorite dancers, making sure programs are printed and ready for people to pick up (some were pre-ordered, some were sold at the door), picking up items for sale at the concession table, and more. Miss Maria also sent out assignments to all the volunteers, show orders for dancers to print and have in their Duffel, last minute instructions… Oh, and I almost forgot, Miss Maria and several volunteers put together recital kits for the volunteers to use backstage. These recital kits can be very helpful, in that they contain coloring books, crayons, books to read, baby wipes, suckers, fruit snacks, markers, pencils, sharpies, and a volunteer badge to identify volunteers to parents. They also put together binders with show orders, dancers’ placements, etc. for all the teachers who were working backstage to make sure things ran smoothly.

Set-up

There was also a handful of others who helped with set-up that did not want to be in the picture.

If that doesn’t sound like enough work, there’s the set-up for the show. Several of us showed up at the dance studio on Wednesday of recital week. We loaded up several vehicles with items needed for backstage, props for recreational groups, etc. Then, we headed over to the middle school where the show was to be held. We all worked hard and fast to unload the vehicles, roll out the flooring, set up the backstage area, tape the floors, move chairs from the auditorium to the hall for dancers to wait on… We got things set up relatively quickly due to all the help, and things were almost ready for dress rehearsal.

The prop dads had to go back with a big truck to get all the large props for the competitive groups. They brought those on Friday (I think), so they’d be ready for the first show.

The set-up continued at dress rehearsal, as dance mom, Lori, put together the rest of the backdrop for the show.

The set-up continued at dress rehearsal, as dance mom, Lori, put together the rest of the backdrop for the show.

Dress Rehearsal

On the day of dress rehearsals, I was asked to take pictures of the event. I had my phone and my camera fully charged when I got there. By the time the middle of the 2nd show rehearsal came around, I had somehow drained my camera battery. I switched to using my phone to take pictures (not the best for quality with the lighting). My phone had been attempting to search for wifi and signal the whole time, and was also almost dead. I was so frustrated. I usually always keep a charger pack in my purse, but for some reason, it wasn’t there. I managed to get pictures of every group, but there were definitely less pictures of groups and their dances in the second rehearsal than the first. Grrr…

Dress Rehearsals ran in such a way that Miss Maria gave last minute instructions, and everyone ran through the finale twice. Then, they ran through the entire show (minus the competitive dances). Dancers were free to go when done with all of their dances. After the first show had their rehearsal, there was a 10-15 minute break, during which the adults had our rehearsal. Then, it was time for show 2 to do the same thing. Dances that were in both shows were split between the two rehearsals.

Show Time!

Here we are, minus one who was just outside the picture, at dress rehearsal. This was the first recital in four years that I have been in. It was soo much fun!

Here we are, minus one who was just outside the picture, at dress rehearsal. This was the first recital in four years that I have been in. It was soo much fun!

Friday night was Show One. I was assigned to the preschoolers, as I have been the last few years. As a preschool teacher, I thoroughly enjoy being with this age group. The first show, there were 19 preschoolers. Another mom, Barb, came to help me when she was done ushering (or whatever her job was at the beginning of the show). She was very helpful when it came to potty breaks (once one has to go, suddenly, 5 others do too), and when it was time for me to go onstage.

In the hallway where the dancers line up to go onstage, there was a TV that was live-streaming the show. I was happy that the dances were spaced in a way that I got to watch my son dance on the TV while lined up with the preschoolers! I was so proud of him!

Backstage, it is VERY organized chaos! Several teachers were on headsets talking to each other about different things happening. Two to three people were “runners”, going to get each group as it was getting close to time to line up. They made sure everyone was where they were supposed to be, when they were supposed to be. There were also sound & light guys, teachers pulling curtains, prop dads waiting to put the right props on at the right time, dancers, and parent chaperones. There were so many people doing so many things, but it all flowed, relatively flawlessly, to the people in the audience.

For Show 2, I was again with preschoolers. This time, my group was much smaller, and I didn’t need a helper until it was time for me to go on stage. Dianne, another parent who was helping with the tots earlier, came to help me. During this show, I made a mistake during my dance (of course I did, it was the show all my family had come to see). My mom said she didn’t notice. I did, but oh well… it happens. I still had fun!

The Solo Showcase didn’t need much help, though I was assigned to help with concessions, and pass out show orders. I got to sit and watch the first half of the show, until my daughter danced her solo. It was fun to see solos that I hadn’t seen before, because they were often performed at different days/times than my daughter at competitions. After watching her dance, I went back to eat, and help clean up from the potluck that was being served behind the school. The prop dads didn’t want me to take the food away, so I cleaned up some, and left the rest for the dads to take care of.

recital group shotFor the final show, the Gala, I was helping the teens and seniors backstage with hair changes, quick costume changes, and whatever else they needed. Barb helped me out again when she was done ushering, since there were a couple girls who needed hair changes at the same time. It was very busy, but I did manage to sneak to the side of the curtain and watch a couple dances.

Tear Down

As soon as the Gala was over, and most of the audience had cleared the auditorium, it was time to take it all down. We had so many people helping this year, that it was done in probably half an hour. I’m pretty sure we set a record! We had to pull up the tape, roll up the floors, take down the backstage dressing areas and tables, reset the chairs in the auditorium, and pack everything away. I’m not really sure where all the recital kits, and prop boxes we brought earlier ended up… hopefully, back to the studio with the prop dads… After tearing down all evidence of the dance recital, many of us headed to Applebee’s to enjoy some down time. Well, for some of us, it was one of two chances we had to eat all day, so we took advantage! ;-)

Now that the shows are over, competitive dancers have been rehearsing for Nationals which start this week. Recreational students get a week or two off before the summer dance schedule starts. Teachers are probably already beginning the process of thinking about next year’s dance recital. WOW!!!

 

Masquerade Dance 2015

The first weekend in May, Lake Area Dance Center (LADC) was at our final regional competition of the year, Masquerade Dance. Masquerade was held at the Ames Center in Burnsville. As always – our favorite competition, at our favorite location.

This competition also attracts some incredible competition. Some of the favorites to watch (besides our own), included Music General, Woodbury Dance Center, Premiere Dance Academy, and Summit Dance Shoppe.

It was so nice outside, Teen Company practiced their lyrical dance outside.

It was so nice outside, Teen Company practiced their lyrical dance outside.

Got the App!

This year, I finally got the Masquerade app to work on my phone. I’m not sure why it didn’t work in years past, but this year, it worked on the first try. Their app tells you what number is on stage, and which one is next. It also has the entire program to help you keep track of the order. I did still buy the program, because I like to hand-write awards. The app has a function to let you keep track of awards, but I felt the awards ceremonies moved too fast to make it useable.

One of my favorite functions of the app, was Audience Choice voting. After each category of dance, several were chosen for audience members to be able to vote for their favorite. I did, of course, always vote for LADC’s dances if they were selected. ;-)

Other features include a link to the venue’s official website, directions, and a list of nearby places to eat.

Some of the Teen Company Dancers at Cherry Berry... a few of our Senior Company dancers showed up, so I roped them into a picture too! ;-)

Some of the Teen Company Dancers at Cherry Berry… a few of our Senior Company dancers showed up, so I roped them into a picture too! ;-)

In addition to using it to vote, I also used it to make sure I didn’t miss any of the dances from our studio. It was an absolutely gorgeous weekend! In early May, Minnesotans like to take advantage of the sun and warmth that we miss all winter long…. I spent quite a bit of the time outside on our long day, laying in the grass, reading. Because I had the app, I could keep track of what numbers danced, and how close they were to the LADC dances (or a few others I knew I wouldn’t want to miss). It also allowed some dancers (and moms) to walk to Cherry Berry (a couple blocks away) and make sure we made it back in plenty of time for dancers to rehearse for their next dance! It was worth the $4.99/year!  Bonus perk: My understanding is that I can use it at Nationals too! :-)

The Program

The program that Masquerade sells is very reasonably priced, at only $8! This program was just as large as anywhere else. In addition to including the names of all the dances, dancers, and the names of their studios, there is also a place at the end to record overall awards. If you’ve read my other competition posts, you might notice that not having that space available is a huge pet peeve for me! I appreciate that I don’t have to search for places to write all the awards! :-) Thank you, Masquerade!!

Sarah is known by many parents as "the judge with the insanely high heels." How does she walk in those?

Sarah is known by many parents as “the judge with the insanely high heels.” How does she walk in those?

The Judges

One of the reasons I love Masquerade, is the judges. Sarah Jo Fazio is the face of Masquerade! She is the judge that most dancers instantly recognize, respect, and love! She has a very positive influence on dancers.

When she gives out the Judges’ Awards, she always starts with some sort of spiel about how the awards and placements do not make or break each person as a dancer. It does not define who they are, or their value. It is merely a reflection of how that day happened to go… her words changed based on the age of the group she was talking to, but the idea was the same. One quote I had written in my program from her was this (I think she said it was something her father used to say): “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. If you don’t learn, you don’t win.”

Besides Sarah’s wonderful message for dancers, I love that the judges at this competition personally pass out all the adjudication awards. It makes the awards seem more personal. While Grace was picking up her High Gold award for her solo, Sarah told her how much she loved her prop. Thank you judges for taking the extra time to interact with the dancers!

Side note: One of my favorite moments from the whole competition was when Grace was dancing her solo. When she stepped on her box, and it lit up, all 3 judges threw up their arms and cheered! It was AWESOME!!! I wish there was a picture of that! :-)

The Judging

Once again, wording was different than other competitions to define the categories. This can confuse dancers and parents alike. This is one area I think Masquerade could improve a bit – communicating the different “rules” to the general public. If you go to their website, you have to be a dance instructor/studio owner to be able to access those.  You can go into the Parent’s FAQ to get the rankings for the adjudication… I’ll see if I can make any sense of it for you.

Age groups are divided up into Petite, Junior, Teen and Senior. That is pretty standard.

The levels of competition are divided into green, which is recreational; gold, which is intermediate; and purple which is advanced or elite. I don’t remember the color scheme representing the different levels in past years. The colors are because they try to harness some of the fun of Mardi Gras into their competition. This is also why they have the masks in their boutique, and throw beads at various times throughout the day. The fun atmosphere they try to create is part of why I like this competition so much!

The scores as pulled from their Parent FAQ page:

Bronze, Silver, and High Silver (I don’t believe I saw any of these rankings): 266 and below

Gold: 275-267 (There were a handful of these given)

High Gold: 284-276 (This was probably the most common score, especially for our dancers in the purple division)

Platinum: 300-285 (Several of our intermediate dances, and a few in the purple received this score, including my daughter’s lyrical dance).

Extras

Masquerade has several “extras” as part of their competition. One that is always exciting, is when dancers are called back to compete again for the Encore award. Judges choose their favorite/entertaining dances to come back and compete for a huge trophy. In the teen/senior section of awards, they had such a hard time deciding, that they chose one from each studio. The Teen Company Jazz Small Group, Vogue, got selected. They didn’t win, but it was fun to watch them perform again!

Masquerade also has an award they give out called the Steven Boyd Award. This award is given to dancers who show a passion for dance. One of our younger dancers, Libby Butters, was honored with this award for the Petite division. She is the youngest dancer from our studio to be given this honor, and to be selected to Parade of Stars (to perform in the opening number at the Finals for Nationals). Other dancers from our studio selected to participate in Parade of Stars from our studio were: Bella Butters, Emilia Skjegstad, Emilee Tapani, Sage Neal, and Liv Johnson. I am looking forward to watching them in the opening number at Nationals! The dance is always amazing!

Here are the Senior Spirit Line award winners - LADC!

Here are the Senior Spirit Line award winners – LADC!

A Spirit Line award is given to studios at the various age levels. Lake Area Dance Center was selected for the Spirit Award at the Senior Level. YAY LADC!

Another award they give is the Best in Show award. This is the dance in each age category with the highest score overall.

Each age category also has a Miss Masquerade crowned. Liv Johnson, one of our amazingly talented dancers was crowned Junior Miss Masquerade! :-)

The final special award is the Top Studio award. While Lake Area Dance Center was not awarded in the Top 3 this year, I don’t think anyone was surprised to see Woodbury Dance Center win the top spot, with Summit Dance Shoppe in 2nd, and Spotlight Productions Dance Studio taking 3rd.

We had a great competition year! The younger dancers continued to be very successful at the recreational and intermediate levels. The older dancers stepped up to a new challenge of dancing at the elite level. It was challenging, but they worked hard, and now know what to expect for next year! Thank you Miss Maria Pomerleau, Mike Dietz, and Madelyn Lee, for your great choreography, and hard work with our dancers. Congratulations dancers for your hard work and a fun season!!

On to recitals and Nationals!!!

 

 

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.

THE GOOD

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.

THE BAD

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…

THE SCORING

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!

 

 

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