AW Stories of the Month
Young Dancers to Compete at the Dance Masters of America Convention
An Interview with Andrea La Maina of That’s Dancing
By Krista Martinelli
This year another national dance competition will take place
(Dance Masters of America), showing off the best young dancers from every state in the country. And once again That’s Dancing will be represented. This summer’s competition takes place in Anaheim, California in the first week of July, 2012.
Three dancers will be showing off the routines they have mastered at That’s Dancing – Erica Borden, Nicholas La Maina and Alec Mittenthal.
Erica Borden, a third grader at Lake Worth Christian School, performed a lyrical solo and took home the title of Petite Miss Dance of Florida. She’s been dancing for approximately six years at That’s Dancing’s studio.
Nicholas La Maina, a third grader at Sunset Palms Elementary, performed a tap solo and brought home the Petite Master Dance of Florida title. He has been with That’s Dancing since he was 2 years old.
Alec Mittenthal, a fifth grader at Sunset Palms Elementary, was recently accepted into Bak Middle School as a dance major. He also did a tap solo in the statewide competition and moved to a new category this year as Junior Mister of Florida. Last year he was Petite Master of Florida and the second runner up in the Dance Masters National competition. He has been dancing for approximately three years at That’s Dancing.
I had the opportunity to chat with Andrea La Maina, who is the co-owner of That’s Dancing along with her sister Michele Walsh. With over 800 dance students in their studio, La Maina is a busy woman these days. She looks forward to Dance Masters of America again this year.
This is the second year in a row of a group of That’s Dancing students winning for Florida and going on to represent our state in Nationals. Is it unusual?
It’s excellent. It’s definitely something to be proud of, such a neat thing to have kids representing us two years in a row like that. Nationals of this prestigious dance competition would be considered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most. It’s amazing with the world-renowned teachers they bring in for that special week, the classes they hold every day, the collaborative opening number, the amazing choreographers, and just being among the best of the best for their ages in the country (and Canada). Dance Masters of America is a very old, very established organization, bringing us the “crème de la crème” when it comes to dance.
What will they perform at Nationals? Tell us about how they will compete.
The will perform their same routine (as in the state competition) when
at nationals. Each dancer will have an interview with the judges. The judges are looking for a well-rounded person; they are looking for a great representative. The young dancers will take four scholarship classes – ballet, tap, jazz and acrobatics. Based on their classes, those scores are included too in the overall scoring. The kids have to wear a suit and tie for interview; they bring their resumes. As a side benefit, they will be very well-prepared for the job market too. They will get to perform with their siblings (who are dancers) too, which helps make it more engaging for the whole family.
Who will accompany them and train with them? What’s the training like – in between the state competition and the finals?
We have been rehearsing a lot with them, The faculty at That’s Dancing has been working with them. We continue doing regional competitions throughout the year. The more times they get up on that stage, the more they feel comfortable up there – it’s an important key to success. We have choreographed some duets and trios too. This year we will be entering the Performing Arts competition, which will give our dancers more time on stage at Nationals. Nationals is a costly ten-day event, so you make the most of the time. That’s what it’s about…getting experience. Confidence goes a long way in these competitions. We are giving them the tools to have the confidence to succeed. You must believe in yourself in order for others to believe in you. Erica has a sister, Alec has a sister, and Nicholas has a sister – so we will be busy in the Performing Arts competitions. It’s great that siblings get to be a part of it – and are just as important as the actual competitors from each family. The siblings are not just there to support their sibling – they can take all of the classes too. My daughter just turned six – she will be doing a solo and a duet with her brother.
How do you feel about your own son going to Nationals this year?
It feels really nice to be able to share this with him. It’s so exciting that he likes to dance. It’s never a given that your son is going to want to dance. It’s sweet. He still plays baseball. His dad supports his dance career too.
How do you think you take dance seriously at That’s Dancing? What are some of the things that your instructors do that give you that “edge?”
Definitely the discipline of dance is our number one thing. It teaches you how to budget your time, the rules for dancing, specific positions, details of the movement and the line. I think it’s just because we love what we do and we believe in it. I value dance education – it is important to me. So we’re not faking it – it’s the real thing! It’s not just my job – it’s my passion, it’s my life. I’m still excited about it! I’m still excited about watching a kid achieve something. I do it for the right reasons – not necessarily to win, but because we love it. It’s not about winning – it’s about the experiences and the relationships you make. The winning is just a little cherry on top. You can gain something from the experience, regardless. The experience itself and sharing that moment – that is winning. The tiara, the trophy – these are just objects – but it’s the memories that will last a lifetime. You will find friends that might stick together for a lifetime. For example, our Senior Miss Florida from last year made a lot of friends at Nationals last year and keeps in touch with them.
What does it mean to be a “dance family” of one of these award-winning dancers? How do the parents get involved?
It’s a definite time commitment for these families. The kids are at the studio five or six days a week. It’s also a financial obligation – with costumes, trips and classes. First and foremost, the families have to be there as an emotional support system for those kids. They make sure we’re instilling positive energy in them and giving them guidance – and whatever the outcome, it’s a positive experience. It’s been really great this season with doing the duets and the trios. All three dance families involved have been spending a lot of time with each other – it’s been fun! They like each other outside of dance as well, which is a bonus.
Anything else about these accomplished young dancers on their way to Nationals?
We just want them to know that their studio, their faculty, their dance company is routing them on from here in Florida. There are approximately 800 other students who will be here, cheering for them as they compete!
For more information about That’s Dancing, visit their website or call them at (561) 642-9677.