Masquerade Nationals 2019

“Last time, make it good!” This is a phrase you’ll hear at the end of class from our competitive dancers. It also applies to Nationals. This is the last time dancers will perform the routines they have worked all year on. For graduating seniors, it has another meaning – it’s the last time most of them will dance competitively. Some may go on to dance in college, but for most, this is the end of that road. Some of our dancers will be assistants or teachers at the dance studio next year; they may be around competitions in that capacity, but otherwise, this is the end of that chapter.

Day 1 – Dancer of the Year Auditions

Day 1 for Grace was her Dancer of the Year Auditions. This consisted of having headshots taken, an interview, and then audition classes in several styles. The end of the day brought feedback from all four judges. This year, they got their feedback on a thumb drive. Grace let me watch it. It sounds like it could be a very helpful experience for anyone who wants to pursue a career in performing arts (much of the feedback was dance related, but not all of it). I kind of wish she had done this more than just this year and last year. She said she learned a lot, and she got to know some of the other senior dancers better as well.

Day 2 – Solos

Day 2 was solo day. Grace performed both her solos. She felt it was the best she had performed her self-choreographed solo, and felt good about her musical theater routine as well. She was disappointed with her scores, as she got High Gold on both.  After every 50 or so routines, they had a quick awards ceremony to give the adjudication awards (Gold, High Gold, Platinum, or Unmasked Elite – based on their point totals). Grace had an award ceremony between her two routines. I know she was disappointed to find out she had scored a High Gold on the first one. I can’t help but wonder if that psychs some dancers out when they have more to perform. By having multiple awards ceremonies, they make the last one of the day (with the overall placements) go faster, but I wonder if it is the best for the dancers?

Day 3 – Small Groups

The 4 graduating Seniors and their moms. 🙂

Day 3 was small group day. The day was split in half, so the younger dancers had their small groups in the morning, and the older dancers were in the afternoon/evening. Grace went early to help out if needed, while I stayed and watched the younger dancers from home on the livestream. I went to watch the teens and seniors’ small groups later in the day. First up was their tap dance. They all looked like they were having so much fun! They got a Platinum score. Next was their contemporary, which looked really good, and scored a High Gold. The last small group of the day for Grace was the graduating seniors. I think it was the best they had performed it; there was a lot of emotion in their performance. They scored a High Gold. We had planned the day before to take some group pictures after this performance. The four dancers were willing participants, making the moms happy!

Day 4 – Large Groups

Day 4 was large group day. Grace had 6 dances that day over a 13 hour or so span of time. They danced their hearts out all day long! I was very proud of all their performances. First up was tap, followed by their musical theater dance. Both scored a High Gold. Next up was their Heels Company musical theater piece. That one scored platinum. Production was the next one of the day – this one has almost all of our studio’s competitive dancers. Our Game Show Network routine got a platinum, and got 1st overall. Grace really liked this dance, and said it was a great last production dance for her. Later came their contemporary large group which scored a High Gold. Hip Hop was next on the agenda. This routine wasn’t originally going to go to Nationals, but we had paid a lot for their guest choreography, and really wanted to see it one more time. Maria made this happen for us, and thank goodness she did. We got to see it not just one more time, but twice, since they got called back to be in the Senior Encore Dance Off in the finals. This is a really fun routine, that brought out the “thug” in these girls (haha). They nailed it on Friday! Last up was their jazz Line that was made up of our Pre-teens, Teens, and Seniors. They had a JT-themed routine. Imagine our surprise when the dance right before them was also a JT themed line! The concepts were very different, even if much of the music was similar. Theirs was more Suit & Tie themed, where ours was more back-up dancer style with lots of hair whips, and heeled boots. Our girls got a Platinum score, 3rd Overall, a Judges’ Award, and were invited back to the Finals in the Production/Line Dance Off. It was a long, but very fun day!

Day 5 – Finals

Day 5 was the Finals. This is always a high energy, exciting day. We had 15 dancers in the opening number, which was Moulan Rouge themed. It was one of my top 3 favorite opening numbers in the 8 years we have been attending Masquerade Nationals. Our Minis were in the Petite Encore Dance Off. We had three dancers in the Dancer of the Year Finals (a first for our studio), one of whom, Bella, was also in the Teen Divisional Champion Dance Off with her duet with her sister. It is a hilarious Musical Theater routine that made me laugh right up to the very last performance of the year. Our Junior/Preteen tap small group was in the Junior Division National Champion Dance Off. I already mentioned that Grace’s Hip Hop group was in the Senior Encore Performance Finals, and that her jazz Line was invited to the National Champion Line/Production Dance Off. Our Teen tap large group was in the Large Group Dance Off. They were the first group from our studio to score an Unmasked Elite. While none of our routines from our studio were National winners, we had a great time watching them all perform a last time!

In10sity Dance Comp.

Senior Recognition – Grace, Paige, Morgan, Niki

This past dance season, Lake Area Dance Center had several firsts as a studio. Traveling to Davenport, IA was one, trying a new competition, In10sity Dance, was another.

The Venue

This competition was held at Edina High School. It was a smaller competition, so this was a good place to have it. There was one large room that served as the dressing room for all the studios. It only got a little crowded for a while. Only our Teens and Seniors went to this competition (and a couple solos and duets, as it was an optional competition studio-wide for those). If our whole studio had been there, it would have been way too many for the dressing room area.

The auditorium at the high school was beautiful! Every seat was a good seat to watch from. The music was played WAY too loud though. The high tones in the music actually hurt my ears, it was so loud. It doesn’t usually bother me that bad.

The biggest downside of this venue was that there were no concessions. There weren’t even vending machines, as far as I could see. It would have been nice if they had least had beverages and candy or something at the merchandise table. Many people brought their own food, but several also ordered it in. People could have planned better if they had known there’d be no food or drinks.

Grace was so excited about her results with her solos!

The Competition

As I already mentioned, this competition was smaller. It had a similar feel to it as BravO! in both size and energy. Grace did her two solos, all three small groups, and 4 of her large groups.

Large and small groups from both teams that attended danced very well. Grace’s contemporary large group won a precision award, and placed 2nd overall. Our Teen tap large group won a choreography award, as did our Senior small group. Congratulations to studio owner, Maria Pomerleau for her tap choreography, and to guest choreographer Katelyn Bloomquist for her small group choreography. Special awards were also given for their Technical difficulty, Entertainment factor, and Costumes.

Grace’s solos got one Platinum, and one High Gold. She got 7th overall, out of 22 dances. This is the first time she has ever placed at a competition, so she was very excited! She earned a half scholarship to one of their intensives, or admission to next year’s competition.

Emilia got 8th place with her contemporary dance, an a Judges Award. Grace, got 7th with her contemporary dance.

She was also selected as an “In10nse Dancer”, along with Emilia, another dancer from our studio. This recognition gave her an invitation to come to their Nationals, and be in their opening number.

I liked that this competition did a Senior appreciation moment. They had all the graduating Seniors stand up, and honored them for all their hard work over their years of dancing. It was very sweet, and they gave a nice pep talk as well.

During awards, the judges also had a pep talk with all the dancers. I appreciate when they do this. It seems like this is happening at more competitions. I think it’s important for dancers to hear that their scores, or their overall placement does not equal their worth as a dancer or as a person. Many dancers (my own included) sometimes forget that. It’s about the effort, and the prep of each dancer. It’s about the lessons learned. It’s about the time and love that instructors put into each routine, costume, and prop.

Grace and Emilia getting invited to be in the In10sity Nationals opening number.


Like many of the competitions we attend, In10sity had improve contests. They did it a bit different at this competition. At most competitions, dancers don’t know what they will be dancing to until they are on stage. At In10sity, they let dancers hear the music for the first round first. Then, they got to go on stage and do their improv. The rest of the rounds were done in the traditional manner.

Divisions and Other Notes

The program was very small, due to the size of the comp. They did not have a place to write awards, though they seemed to go at a pace that you could mostly follow along in the program. Can’t we just agree that all programs should have a place to write the awards? It would just be easier for everyone! They did have the rules written in the back though, which helped, because the different levels were not immediately obvious. Dancers either competed at a Debut (Novice/Beginner), Premier (Intermediate), or Elite level. Levels were noted by a letter in parenthesis after the name of the routine. It was a bit confusing if you weren’t used to the way they do it.

Similar to the Title Competition that most competitions have, this one had the Con10tion Title Program. At some competitions, you have to pay extra to compete for the title, at some, you are automatically qualified if you have at least 2 solos. This one had a solo and improv element to it, with some pretty great prizes! I’m guessing there was an extra fee, though, it is not stated in the rules. Winners won a $500 cash prize, full In10sity Dance Scholarship, jacket, etc. Some dancers won a Joffrey Intensive scholarship as well. I’m guessing not many of the studios that were present at this competition knew about it (or it was very high priced to participate). Only one studio had dancers that went for it. I know we have a couple that would have tried, otherwise.

In10sity Award

Lake Area Dance Center won the In10sity Award. For this award, they take the highest scoring, non-solo, routines, and average their scores. The highest average score (LADC) won $1000! Congratulations to LADC for this accomplishment – WERK!



Masquerade, Davenport, 2019

This year, our studio, Lake Area Dance Center, tried something new – we traveled out of state for a dance competition. We braved a snow storm, to travel 6 hours to Davenport, Iowa for Masquerade. Of course, we could have waited until the next day to go, but with dance competitions, you don’t get the final schedule until a week before. We knew Grace’s solos would be on Friday, but didn’t know what time, so our hotel reservations were already booked for that Thursday night. Luckily, it ended up being a snow day for our schools, so we were able to leave earlier in the day, and take our time to get down there. It was terrifying, and took 7 1/2 hours vs the 6 it should have, but we made it safely.

We stayed at the Blackhawk Hotel, which was connected to the RiverCenter, where the competition was to be held.

The hotel was historic, yet had some updates to it. It had a very cool feel. There was a pool and hot tub (unfortunately, after spending some time in the hot tub on Thursday night, the hot tub broke for the rest of the weekend). There was a nice little workout room, where some of our dancers spent time during the long weekend. There was also a bar with bowling. We didn’t get to use the bowling, since it was in use the night we had time. There was also a restaurant, bar, and a cafe, where we got Starbucks each day.

The Rivercenter was a nice little walk across a skyway away. I heard many mixed responses about it as a venue for the competition, but I loved having it right there. It allowed me to go back to the room to grab food for us for lunch, take a little longer to get ready when Grace had to be there 2 hours early, etc.

The Venue

The RiverCenter had a large auditorium for the competition in the lower level from the skyway. There were several smaller conference rooms on the main level that served as dressing rooms. We went up and down those steps a lot over the course of the weekend – especially the dancers! My legs were burning, I can’t imagine how much more sore theirs were!

The downside of their setup, was that the stage was on one end, with chairs set up filling the rest of the hall. In the middle, was the raised area where the cameras were set up. It was strategically placed so that it really didn’t block any views, which was good. I think we have been so spoiled by having auditorium seating at most other competitions. When all the seating is at the same level, by the time you get to the back of the room, it is harder to see what is going up on that stage. For people like me who tend to prefer sitting in the balcony so I can see everything happening on stage, the chairs were not my favorite. I sat up closer for solos, but further back for groups. It wasn’t a deal breaker for me, but I heard a lot of complaints about that aspect of this competition from other parents.

The Competition

Masquerade is like a 2nd home to us. Even being in a different city, we saw familiar faces in the competition staff, and familiar judges. We knew what to expect from the different levels – green, gold, and purple vs novice/recreational, intermediate, and advanced/elite. We also had an idea of what it would take to score a platinum score, or newly added this year “Elite Unmasked” (a score of 291-300). What we didn’t know, was what to expect from the other studios. We are used to competing against many of the same studios at each competition. Since we were in another state, we knew nothing about the other studios. The studios present were very good! We saw different styles of choreography and costuming. We saw moves we haven’t seen before, and we saw classic musical theater that we don’t always see in the Twin Cities. We saw new uses of props, and dancers bringing their own props on stage to set up. In MN, it’s usually the Prop Dads and teachers that bring out and set up props. I thought it was refreshing to have new faces, new styles, and new studios.

Being out of state kind of forced us to be somewhat of a captive audience. I got to see almost all the dances from our studio. It was fun to see and support them all. 🙂 Listening to the Mini’s parents was adorable!

Most of Grace’s routines got a platinum score. A couple scored a high gold. The energy was great! This year’s Pre-Teen – Senior Jazz Line, “Women of the Woods” got an encore, which meant they got to perform their routine twice. They ended up winning the encore award! It was so much fun!

Being that this was our last year, I can’t say that I look forward to traveling for competitions again. Maybe Grace will get to if she is teaching any Competitive groups next year. I hope the studio keeps the tradition. I think it brought many dancers and families closer together.

Reflections on Past Writings

Recently,  I went back and re-read some of my old posts. It’s interesting to read your past writings (for many reasons).

When I started blogging about dance competitions, I did a much better job of explaining the levels, the awards, etc. than I do now. As the years went on, it felt redundant, and I quit doing that. Instead, I talked about our schedule, the judges, the venues, the results. I suppose the original posts were more interesting to read. They certainly would have been more helpful to people who are researching the different competitions.

Originally, I started this blog as a way to help other new dance moms navigate the crazy world of competition dance by sharing what I have learned. I posted about what people could expect at competitions, what to pack, rhinestoning costumes, what different things mean at different competitions, etc. Now, I guess I write more because I enjoy it.

When I don’t post for a while, I am always surprised when people ask me when I will post again. It brings me back to 10th grade (maybe 11th). I had a writing teacher that would tell me she couldn’t wait to read my next paper. She would tell me she enjoyed my point-of-view and my writing style. She always made me feel important, even though I always thought she was full of it. Looking back, it was probably because of her encouragement that I later became the editor and main contributor to my college newspaper. It was likely because of her that I was asked to edit the newsletter for a Consulting company I used to work for, and contributed to our church’s newsletters with articles about Child Development. It might have even been because of her that I started blogging. She gave me the confidence to think someone might care to read what I write.

As I’m now in the middle of our last year of competition dance, I’ve gotten lazy about writing all the details. I’m trying to just enjoy the car rides with my daughter, the excitement of what each competition might hold, and all the amazing dances I get to see each weekend. That said, I am also starting to feel like this is my last chance to help other moms new to the experience of being a Dance Mom. Maybe I should start adding all the  details back in? Maybe no one really cares to read all that. I have two competitions we’ve attended that I haven’t written about, and one that I might go back and add more “helpful” details about. I haven’t decided which direction to go with those posts.

My husband has been encouraging me for years to write a book on the subject. I always doubted that I have enough insight, or enough wisdom in this area to write a whole book. I am not a perfect dance mom. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve argued with my daughter, I’ve irritated our studio owner. My daughter has showed up to competitions without hairspray or enough bobby pins, she’s been missing needed items… I might be able to give my opinion on different aspects of being a dance mom, but what if people disagree with me? The doubt, and the what ifs, are what hold us back- they are what hold me back. Other books have since been published about being a parent in the competition dance world. Maybe I missed my opportunity. Maybe, I will be bored next year when I’m not spending every Friday night working at the dance studio to help pay for my dancer’s tuition. Maybe I will decide to attempt a short book, and publish it as an e-book… maybe, I will just say goodbye to the world of competition dance, and just be a tap student again.

I’ve made many friendships through the dance studio. I don’t doubt that many of those relationships will continue. I’m pretty sure I will miss being a Dance Mom. Then again, I might just enjoy having my Spring back.  As the new chapter of life takes shape, I don’t know what I will write about. Only time will tell.

BravO! Dance Competition 2019

Two weeks ago, we were at the Ames Center in Burnsville for Lake Area Dance Center‘s first competition of the year for our whole studio, BravO! National Dance & Talent Competition. The weekend started for us on Friday night, with my daughter’s two solos. There were a total of 71 Senior BravO! level (Advanced level) solos. I was really proud of Grace, she did so well on her dances! She really got into her character for her musical theater solo, and got into the emotion of her contemporary solo. She felt great about her performances, which is always a good thing. She scored platinum with both. A big accomplishment for her!

Saturday, Grace only had her Production dance. Production amazes me every year. It always exceeds expectations. All of our competitive dancers are part of this routine. I don’t know how many dancers there are in all, but it must be somewhere between 75-100 dancers on stage at once. I know it gets chaotic backstage and in the wings, but on stage, it looks great. The minis are always so cute, when they come out with little pitter-patters across the stage. Studio ownner, Maria,  does a great job of highlighting strengths of different dancers in different sections. Production got a platinum score, and took first in the line/production category in the Junior level Encore! (Intermediate) division. They also received the Standing O!vation Award, which combines choreography, showmanship, costume, technique, etc.

Grace with her two Platinum Score plaques.

We went early to watch the Minis, Petites, Juniors, and Pre-teens’ large groups. Grace also wanted to help with props, and assisting where needed. We ended up staying to watch small groups, and a few of the solos too. It was fun to see all the dances we don’t usually get to see, though it made for a long day.

Sunday was our scheduled long day. Grace had 9 dances over about an 8 hour span. The morning was filled with her three small groups (tap, contemporary, and the Graduating Seniors – also in the contemporary division). It was my first time seeing all these dances. The tap one looked so fun, contemporary looked very together, and the Seniors one was so sweet! All three scored Elite High Gold. Next came large groups, starting with our Line that combines Pre-teens, Teens, and Seniors. The day continued on with one dance after another. My poor girl was exhausted, and hungry by the end. I got her popcorn chicken to nibble on as she was able, and she had other snacks in her bag, but there just wasn’t a lot of time for eating. She was on Spring Break the following week, and slept most of Monday. Most of her routines scored Elite High Gold, with tap and hip hop scoring Platinum.

A few notes about this competition:

  • The programs were a reasonable price at $10, but there weren’t any places to write awards. I always appreciate when they do have those sections. On the up-side, the pace of the awards was not so fast that you couldn’t keep up to record them. They were very good at announcing the numbers (with the exception of one judge announcing her special awards).
  • I mention this with almost every competition, but when awards are being announced, they should really turn the music off. It’s distracting, and can make it hard to hear.
  • I liked the shorter sessions between awards. It made the awards sessions go faster too.
  • I don’t understand why they only give one medal to duets/trios. Two-three people earned it, they should each get one.
  • I appreciated that at the awards session for Seniors, they acknowledged the Graduating Seniors, and asked them to stand up. It was weird to see Grace among them.

    BravO!, Honoring Graduating Seniors.

  • Tap sounds were picked up with microphones. You couldn’t see them from the audience, but tap sounds were loud enough that you could often hear them out in the lobby.
  • I liked some of the different awards they gave, such as the “Excellence in Showmanship” award which gave the winner a goody bag of swag, plus a scholarship to a summer intensive (one of our dancers won this one), and the Scholarship Award that gave the winner a larger ($300) scholarship to a summer intensive. My friend from high school was there, and her son won this award. It was so cool to see familiar faces on that stage! They also had a raffle that gave gift cards to Discount Dance Supply, and garment bags from Dream Duffel. I enjoyed seeing the variety of interaction that we don’t often get to see at competitions. I’m sure the sponsors appreciate their mentions as well! 😉
  • Being the “New guy” at a competition can be somewhat frustrating. This is our 2nd year at BravO!, many of the other studios there come every year, and/or attend their Nationals. We were very familiar with other studios there, as we have seen them at the Masquerade Nationals we attend every year, or at other competitions. We saw some great routines, which is part of the fun of attending competitions. These routines, as well as some of ours, scored very high. The frustrating part came when the Top 5 in different categories became what seemed to be predictable. I’m not saying anything was “rigged”, or that judges were playing favorites. Some routines were very clearly entered in the wrong category, others were given higher scores that I would have given. I know I’m not a judge, but I have been attending competitions for years. I just didn’t agree with some of the judges’ choices or scores… I just hope the critiques justified the scores, and/or were helpful.
  • Overall, this is a fun competition. Grace told me it felt like a big party. The music and lights at the beginning of awards’ sessions are exciting. The announcer is a little over-the-top with his commentary, but he is also very entertaining. I enjoyed most aspects of the competition. On to the next one!


Masquerade “MN I” Dance Competition 2019

This is my daughter’s Senior Year. Since it’s her last “hurrah”, she is doing all the things she hasn’t been able to do over the past several years. She is in multiple small groups, and is doing 2 solos (one of which she choreographed herself). I also let her sign up for all of the optional competitions with her solos. The first of those was Masquerade Dance Competition’s “MN I”.

Masquerade comes to Minnesota several times throughout the year. This was the first of this year. Because it was so early in the competition season, it was a much smaller competition than we are used to at MN III, the one Lake Area Dance Center typically attends as a whole studio. There were less studios, and fewer groups. It was a great opportunity for our dancers to get some experience performing, and get some early feedback.

Graduating Seniors Niki and Grace prepare for their first competitions of the season.

This competition had a much different feel than our usual Masquerade Competition. It was smaller, as I’ve mentioned, but it was more than that. There was an overall supportive vibe at this event. People were very positive. Everyone seemed to encourage each other, whether they knew each other or not. Several people that we didn’t know, came up to Grace and told her she did a great job. I was so surprised, because while I thought she did, I am also a bit biased, because I’m her mom. It was wonderful to hear that so many strangers thought so too.

There was plenty of room to run dances while waiting for their turn to take the stage.

Grace is typically a tapper, but this year, decided to push herself to do something different. She self-choreographed a Contemporary solo. She is also doing a Musical Theater solo, choreographed by our studio owner, Miss Maria. She was very excited to perform them for the first time.  Her goal has always been to get a platinum score on her solos at Masquerade. She has never quite reached that adjudication level with any solo at Masquerade competitions – Regionals or Nationals. She met that goal with one of her two solos. She got a Platinum score with her Contemporary solo, and High Gold on her Musical Theater.

An extra surprise that we found out about the day before, was that a few dancers from our previous studio in Wisconsin, Eau Claire School of Dance, were also at MN I with their solos and duets. We met up with them briefly, though, all were busy rehearsing and preparing for subsequent performances. It was fun to see old friends!

Lexi, Grace, and Zoe danced together at Eau Claire School of Dance 9 or so years ago!

Overall, MN I was a wonderful experience. I wished we had done this competition in years past. It was a great way to start her last season competing!



Guest Choreography

Over the past several years, our studio, Lake Area Dance Center (LADC) has branched out into having guests choreograph different routines. Most years, it has been small groups or solos. The exception has been that the Senior Hip Hop group was the only large group having guest choreography. Choreographers have included teachers from other local studios, and, in more recent years, other professionals from the dance world.

The benefits of having guests choreographers are many. Dancers who learn from a variety of instructors, whether it be guest choreographers, or through Master classes or conventions, become better dancers. They get to learn new techniques and styles they might otherwise not experience.

Grace’s first experience with a guest choreographer was 3 years ago. She was in the Senior Hip Hop Group. Katelyn Bloomquist (formerly Rademacher), was the choreographer. The routine was called “Bake Shop”. It was a fun routine, with a unique twist on hip hop and baking. 🙂

2017-2018 – “Ya Ya” with Anthony Gabriel and Cory Booker

The next year, her hip hop routine, “Starving”, was choreographed by Anthony Gabriel. It was a smooth hip hop routine. They got special judges’ awards for their style and performance. Last year, her hip hop routine was also choreographed by Anthony Gabriel, with Cory Booker as a co-choreographer. This was a hard-hitting routine called “Ya Ya”. Our dancers again received judges awards for this routine, with comments about how different this routine was from any they had seen from LADC before.

2017-18 – “Love Me or Leave Me” with Kaleena Miller

Last year, her tap small group was choreographed by Kaleena Miller. We have been to many of her tap shows before, and are big fans of her style. Last year’s piece was called “Love Me or Leave Me.” Her rhythmic tap style made for a happy, fun routine that challenged our dancers. This piece was also selected to perform in the 2018 Twin Cities Tap Festival. This year’s tap small group routine has also been choreographed by Kaleena Miller.


2018-19 Graduating Seniors – lyrical small group with Katelyn Bloomquist.

This year, Grace has 5 routines (including the tap small group listed above) that are guest choreographed. She has lyrical and contemporary small groups, both choreographed by Katelyn Bloomquist.

Her hip hop large group has been choreographed by Erik Saradpon. Once again, this is a very different style of hip hop for their group.


2018-19 Hip Hop with Erik Saradpon


She is also part of a new Heels large group that has been choreographed by James Kinney, and Alex Nordin. This group routine has a completely different feel than any our studio has performed before. The girls were all extremely excited when they finished their choreography session with these two!

2018-19 Heels routine with James Kinney and Alex Nordin

Grace loves all of her dances she has learned so far. It’s going to be a great Senior year!

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