Masquerade Dance Competition 2017

Two weeks ago, our studio, Lake Area Dance Center, attended our favorite competition of the year, Masquerade. It was held at the Ames Center in Burnsville, MN.

The competition was quite large this year, and was spread out to 6 days! This was the longest competition I think we’ve ever been to (at least on the regional level). Even without Grace doing a solo, her schedule was crazy this year! She had to dance 4 different days. The amount of time we spent there was worth it – we got to see some incredible dances!

Thursday night, Senior Company danced their three large group dances. They got a high gold on their jazz and tap dances, and platinum on their lyrical dance. Their jazz dance, “You Don’t Know My Name”, got the audience choice award for Musical Theater/Jazz. Friday, our Company Hip Hop group danced their routine, “Starving”. They got a platinum score. They also received a Judge’s Award for having a cool style, and for being a happy, chill hip hop dance with a story. Starving also got an Audience Choice Award. Our Teens’ lyrical/contemporary dance got an Audience Choice award as well.

Grace accepting the Judges Award for their Hip Hop Dance.

Saturday, Our Teen/Senior Line performed their jazz dance, “Welcome to Miami.” They got a platinum score, and were called back to do an encore. My favorite dances of the day were all asked to perform encores. Our dancers did an amazing job! They were highly energetic, very together… it was quite fun to watch! They ended up taking 2nd place in the Teen Purple Line Division. The dances that took 3rd, 4th, and 5th were the three dances that would have taken 1st, 2nd and 3rd in my mind. It was a very exciting night!!! I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen our studio owner, Miss Maria, that excited once before!

Sunday morning, bright and early, our dancers performed their Production number, Ultimate Fighters. It just might be my favorite dance of all time! It’s a high energy dance, with lots of great music!! They got called back to perform an encore. I didn’t get to see it, because I had to head back to work at the dance studio for a few hours. I heard they did well. They got a platinum score, and 2nd place overall.

Photo creds to Miss Maria for this shot of the entire Production Group!

A few additional notes (or more like random thoughts) from this competition:

*The Ames Center seemed to be colder than usual this year.

*Once again, the food did not disappoint. I’m very happy with the changes they’ve made to their menu offerings!

*A totally random note I wrote was that the lines between jazz and hip hop seem to be increasingly blurred…. I can’t help but wonder just where that line is?!? When it looks like hip hop, but is in the jazz category, how do the judges score that? It seems like jazz has become more of a catch-all category for the things that don’t quite fit in hip hop, or don’t quite fit in contemporary… as there are more and more styles of dance at the competitions, the lines between them move closer and closer together…

*This competition brings together some of the best of the best in the Twin Cities. With that, there were more platinum scores than I remember ever hearing at competitions in the past.

The picture only gives a slight idea of how much less space they had to practice in.

*The Ames Center Maui Wowie stand was moved during this competition. It was on the second floor where groups typically rehearse their  dances – this was a terrible spot! If there wasn’t constantly a line, it might not be quite such a problem. Even when they tried to direct the line differently so it didn’t block the rehearsal area, it was still in the way.

*Usually Masquerade does a pretty good job at volume control, but this week, portions were over the top loud. Especially the bass. I had a note on another page that said “turn down the bass!”

*The programs were not too expensive at $10 each. My only complaint, is that in the back, where they had the place  to write awards, some categories were missing (such as Junior Purple Large Groups). I would also add areas to write down Audience Choice awards, and even Judges’ Awards. During awards, they didn’t talk to the 1st place winners  in each division, like they usually do. They were over an hour ahead, pretty much the whole weekend. It would have been nice if they’d have spent a little bit of that time talking to the winners in different categories (they only did on some).

*The internet at the Ames Center more spotty than usual.

*One of the things that makes Masquerade so fun, is that during the breaks, they typically throw out lots of bead necklaces, and other fun things. This year, in the four days I was there, I think I only saw them do it once. It could be that when the younger kids were there, they did it more, but I didn’t see it very often. Even though my own daughter has outgrown the desire to get as many beads as she can, it is one of the things that is fun about this competition, traditionally.

*For a favorite competition that was a lot of fun, I sure had a lot of negative sounding critiques of different things. Sorry about that. I don’t typically like to be negative. Overall, the competition was great! Our dancers did well, and we got to see TONS of amazing dances from all over the Twin Cities!!

I look forward to our upcoming competition, the last Regional of the season. Then, it’s recitals, and Nationals!!!



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.


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!!!


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!



Recital Hopping

This year, I went to four different dance recitals, and one dress rehearsal. It was fun to see the differences between how each studio ran their show. They were all very enjoyable to watch, and they all did things a bit different.

Lake Area Dance Center

133The first two recitals I went to were put on by Lake Area Dance Center. You can find my complete write up of the recitals here. The first show was the Competitive Gala. It was all the solos, trios, small groups, and large groups that competed. It was a long show at 3+ hours, but so worth it! We have some very talented dancers and choreographers that made every minute worth watching.

The second show I saw most of was a combination of competition large and small groups, and recreational groups. It was my son’s first ever dance recital, and my daughter’s 9th. I was so proud of both of them!

At Lake Area Dance, there is a radio-style announcer that introduces numbers and helps tie the theme of the show together (often while the curtain was closed to get preschoolers or props staged). This year, the  theme was “Live, Love, Dance”. Most of the dances were somehow tied to different seasons of love (crush, love of a parent, love of a child, breakups, etc).  The announcements were in the style of “The Dating Game,” i.e. “You’ll fall in love with this group…” It reminded me of the scene in Shrek where the magic mirror is introducing the different princesses to Lord Farquaad. There was some humor mixed in. It was very entertaining.

Arabesque School of Dance

The moms rock the stage at Arabesque's recital.

The moms rock the stage at Arabesque’s recital.

The third recital I went to was from Arabesque School of Dance. One of my preschoolers dances there, and I have always enjoyed their dances at competitions, so of course, I HAD to go! 😉

While people were shuffling in, finding their seats, etc, they had solos and duets entertaining the audience. I have to say, I am impressed that all that commotion didn’t throw off the dancers. None of the solos/duets/trios were in the show itself, so this was a great way to still let them show off their hard work! I wish I’d have known about it, because we got there shortly before the show started. We would have enjoyed seeing more of said solos. The show lasted close to 3 hours.

One thing that I really like about Arabesque, is their presence of boys. They have several boys that appeared many times through their show. The boys are really nice too, we’ve seen them at competitions. In particular, there’s one boy, Logan, that I really enjoy watching. That boy is going to be a star – he has a HUGE personality that reminds me a bit of So You Think You Can Dance winner Benji Schwimmer.

They had wonderful lyrical routines! My favorite was one where each of the teen girls was a different “princess”, though not how you’d think. I don’t think I can even do justice to how cool it was – they each had a prop to symbolize their princess, their costume colors matched the princess’s costume… it was beautifully danced. Two thumbs up to the choreographer!

I also enjoyed watching their tap dances. They were very hard hitting, and together. Even from the back of the auditorium, you could feel the beat of the taps on the floor. I had to laugh a little when their Yankee Doodle tap dance came on; Grace looked at me, and said, “Mom, this was the dance that beat our tap dance!” Yep, they were the ones that got third place at StarQuest, when Grace’s dances took 1,2,4. I really don’t think they missed a beat!

The transition between dances was smooth. Dancers came on the stage, and dancers went off the stage… there wasn’t anything to “tide the audience over” while props or preschoolers were being set up behind the curtain. In fact, I’m not even sure there was a curtain closed in between. I honestly can’t remember that detail off-hand, but I do remember Prop Dads being cheered on while setting up the props.

My little preschooler I went to watch was so cute! I was glad to have the opportunity to watch her perform in two dances at the show (and see her one last time before she goes off to Kindergarten)!

The Dance Studio

018The last recital I went to was for The Dance Studio, home of the Northern Force Dance Company. I first saw this studio while watching the Hall of Fame competition live online last year. Their dance to Turning Tables had me in awe, and is still in my top favorite 5 dances of all time. I was disappointed to find out we wouldn’t be at any of the same competitions as Northern Force this year from another one of my preschoolers, who dances for their youngest competition line. I couldn’t pass up going to their show!

At $18/ticket, it was a bit expensive to take both my kids to, and at over 3 hours, my 7 year old son struggled to sit through it. For Grace (12) and I, it could have been longer, and we still would have loved it! It was worth every dollar! My preschooler’s grandma was running the ticket booth, and was nice enough to buy a program for me! That was very helpful! Their program was very similar to Lake Area’s, with pictures of all groups featured inside. In the center of the program, was a list of all the dances, and which shows they were performing in. It did not appear they had a printout that people could pick up that had the order of the dances. For the record, both Lake Area and Arabesque had the printed version anyone could get. This one may have, but I didn’t see it (and it really didn’t matter to me, since I had the program).

What was cool too, was that one of my preschoolers from the year before, now in Kindergarten, was in the show too. She was super excited to see me there, and I was just as excited to see her. She was one that gave me many funny stories, and kept me laughing the year before!

I think it was probably the best recital I have ever been to. They have so many competitive groups, that it felt like being at a competition, only without the judges! Of course, they had the typical Opening number featuring many of their competition groups. Their show theme was Smash. Most of  the show was done in sort of a collection of show/movie themes. There was a huge screen behind the dancers, onto which several different pictures were projected. One example would be that when the little kids were doing some Disney songs, the castle from Disneyland was projected behind them. One of the itty bitty little boys had obviously not noticed this during rehearsal, and turned around, walked up to it, and was touching the picture behind him. It was so cute, and so funny!

One thing Northern Force does well, is their use of props. They had girls tapping up and down stairs (that dance made an aerobic step class look like a piece of cake). They had girls dancing on blocks that were moving across the stage, and girls dancing around the mast of a beached sailboat. They also tended to use each other’s bodies as props. As weird as that sounds, there was one dance, I thought they were all sitting on a block of some sort, but as they kept dancing, there was nothing there. They were propping each other up. Their use of each other’s bodies were amazing!

Julianne’s Dance Center


I just found out early last week, that my niece was going to be in her very first dance recital. At one point, she wasn’t going to be able to be in the show, but they were able to work it out so she could go. Unfortunately, the shows were Thursday night, when Michael and I both started summer dance, and Friday night, when the three of us were in a local parade with Lake Area Dance. Since I couldn’t make it to her recital, I went to watch her at her dress rehearsal (and brought her a rose, because every little girl wants flowers at their recital).

Their dress rehearsals were 2 nights. Since she wore her costumes in the first rehearsal, she didn’t have them on at the one I went to. I did get to see her do her dances though, and I did get to see the giant smile on her face as she performed them! 🙂

I loved the theme of their recital, “Things That BOOGIE in the Nite.”  Their show was broken into 3 acts, the first was all the younger children, and included the finale. Then, there were the other 2 acts which included all the older girls. There was a huge backdrop painted by the owner’s nephew, and a giant prop (made to look like the inside of a mansion) that served as the backdrop for Act 1 (which my niece was in). In between Act 1 and 2, they removed the mansion room. It was kind of fun watching my “little” brother playing the role of Prop Dad in between acts! My brother’s girlfriend dances, and is a teacher at this center, so I only stayed to watch them rehearse Act 2 (which she was in), until her tap dance. They danced to “Troublemaker“, it looked like a lot of fun. I would have loved to be up on that stage with them!

The story behind Act 1, was that the teacher/owner was going to have a home and garden magazine come do a photo shoot inside her mansion, and she needed to clean it up before they came. Each of the dances represented different things she was “cleaning up” (“Itsy Bitsy Spider“, “Casper the Friendly Ghost“, devils in “Hot, Hot, Hot“, etc).  Julianne did a duet with two of her daughters (who were her “Magic Mirrors”). I loved it – it was a great dance!!

It’s always interesting to see the processes that different studios take both behind the scenes, and during their shows. This one used the teacher telling the story to tie together the show, and buy time for groups to get on and off stage. At least at dress rehearsal, they didn’t have the curtains close even once that I can recall. I would have loved to have been able to see the final product, but glad I got to watch what I did.

Eau Claire School of Dance

Adult Hip Hop group from the 2012 recital. Grace was in this dance with us.

Adult Hip Hop group from the 2012 recital. Grace was in this dance with us.

When we lived in WI, Grace attended Eau Claire School of Dance (ECSOD) for 5 years, I danced there for 4. We were not able to go to their recital this year, because it was on the same weekend as ours. I did feel it was worth mentioning how they do their recitals though, as they had another, slightly different, approach to that in between time while dancers get on and off stage. The curtain closes between most of their dances, and various groups of Company Dancers (their competitive groups) come out and do little skits in between that tie the theme of the show together. Think of mini-commercials, only not really advertising anything.

They also do their finale a bit different than most studios I have been to. Where most shows I have been to have a choreographed finale that all the dancers do together, ECSOD invites whatever dancers want to come back on stage for the finale to come on and just dance. It’s a lot of fun, as we would dance however we wanted for the last song, took a big bow, and the curtain closed.

Their shows have always been high quality, and quite enjoyable as well. I am looking forward to being able to attend another one of their shows in the future!

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