AW Stories of the Month
That’s Dancing Gears Up for Nationals
An Interview with Five Talented Young Dancers
By Krista Martinelli
This month I sat down with the talented young dancers at That’s Dancing, who will be competing on the national level at Dance Masters of America from July 4th to 11th in Orlando this summer. I also had the opportunity to interview Andrea LaMaina, co-owner of That’s Dancing in Lake Worth, Florida. These young dancers are proud to represent That’s Dancing on a national level. It’s rare for a dance studio to achieve five state titles and send five students to Nationals, but That’s Dancing has come through with flying colors again this year.
About the Dancers
Morgan Reilly is in third grade at Sunset Palms, and she has one younger brother. She is currently holding the dance title of Petite Miss Dance of Florida, Chapter 2. In addition to Dance Masters of America, she will compete in the OnStage America nationals this summer.
Nicholas LaMaina is eleven and is a 5th grader at Sunset Palms. He is the son of Andrea LaMaina (co-owner of That’s Dancing) and he has a younger sister who also dances at That’s Dancing. He holds the title of Junior Mister Dance of Florida, Chapter 2. He will be training with the Joffrey Ballet this summer on a partial scholarship and also competing in OnStage America nationals this summer.
Courtney Pirozzi is in 4th grade and goes to BinksForestElementary School. She holds the title of Junior Miss Dance of Florida, Chapter 2 and is very excited to compete on a national level this summer.
Tatiana Nuñez is in 7th grade at BAK and is a dance major. She holds the title of Teen Miss Dance of Florida, Chapter 2. She was awarded a full scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet, where she will be spending five weeks training in New York City this summer.
Jillian Medero holds the title of Senior Miss Dance of Florida, Chapter 2. She has two older siblings, Jessica and Jonathan. She graduates from Dreyfoos as a dance major this year. In addition to Dance Masters of America, she will compete in the OnStage America nationals this summer, along with Morgan and Nick. She has been dancing with That’s Dancing for fifteen years – she started at three years old. Next year she will go to Pace University in New York and major in commercial dance.
AW: Morgan, how do you feel about going to Nationals? Tell us about the dance routine(s) you will be doing? What’s your favorite thing about dance?
Morgan: Going to Nationals is “awesome sauce.” I will be doing a jazz duet with Nick, a tap duet with Milana and a lyrical routine. The best thing about dance is getting to express myself.
AW: Nick, how do you feel about going to Nationals? Tell us about the dance routine(s) you will be doing? What’s your favorite thing about dance? What are the advantages of being a boy in this competition, if any?
Nick: Going to Nationals will be a good experience. I’m doing the lyrical solo dance that I won (for Florida’s competition) with, as well as a jazz duet. I really enjoy all of it at Dance Masters of America. The national competition gives us more experiences and more opportunities that really move our dancing careers forward.
AW: Courtney, how do you feel about going to Nationals? Tell us about the dance routine(s) you will be doing? What’s your favorite thing about dance?
Courtney: Super excited! And I can’t wait to take all the DMA convention classes and grow as a dancer. I will be competing with an acrobatics dance number with lots of hard gymnastic tricks and difficult choreography. My favorite thing about dance is that I am able to express myself, my emotions and my feelings.
AW: Tatiana, how do you feel about going to Nationals? Tell us about the dance routine(s) you will be doing? What’s your favorite thing about dance?
Tatiana: I feel super-excited and ready for Nationals. I will be doing the tap solo routine that I won the Florida title with and also a tap duet with Jillian. When it comes to dance, I really like learning different things every day and using what you know to teach other people. I want to be a dance teacher and I also want to have a part in a dance company.
AW: Jillian, how do you feel about going to Nationals? Tell us about the dance routine(s) you will be doing? What’s your favorite thing about dance?
Jillian: This is my fourth time going to Nationals, and I really look forward to seeing friends from past years. This is my last year at That’s Dancing, and then I’ll be going to PaceUniversity in New York for commercial dance. I’ll be doing a lyrical solo and a tap duet with Tatiana at Nationals. My favorite things about dance are being able to express myself and being able to be versatile (in types of dance), as well as having the little ones at That’s Dancing looking up to me.
Andrea: We are excited to go to Dance Masters of America nationals again this year. It’s a non-profit, dance teacher-run organization that has been in existence for over 100 years. The dancers will have daily technique classes. We’re proud of our five dancers, who also competed in four regional competitions leading up to this summer. As we have learned, the more experience on a stage performing with judges, the more feedback, the better.
Tatiana: Yes, these competitions help you mentally prepare for Nationals.
Andrea: One of the great things about attending Dance Masters is that our students get to dance with other dancers of a very high caliber. Everyone who attends is there to work hard, so it’s very focused.
Jillian: Because everyone is there to work hard, you push yourself.
Tatiana: It’s better for us – it raises the bar higher. And we push harder when we’re there.
Andrea: They will have fabulous choreographers and dancers working with them. The organization is heavily-focused on technique and training. It’s really the best of the best. There are many benefits to attending this national competition. For example, there is an interview portion of the competition, which helps the dancers be well-rounded and well-spoken too.
AW: How do you handle nerves when you’re on stage?
Tatiana: You have to believe in yourself. Just wash it away and then focus. Once you step on the stage, all of the nervousness goes away and you just rock it. It’s all about being prepared.
Courtney: I am normally not nervous, but if I am – I just put my earbuds in and listen to my music while stretching and run my routine through my head.
Andrea: All of our dancers have different strengths. Jillian is incredibly consistent. Tatiana responds well under pressure and is a true performer, surprising us with new things that come out in her final performances. Morgan is in her first season with our dance company, and she really comes to life on stage. She is meticulous when it comes to taking notes and feedback, incorporating those changes right away. Courtney is a fireball on stage! She is sharp and strong and extremely driven for her age. And, Nick is my son – so I think he is great! He is very serious about his dancing and wants to better himself with each performance. He makes goals for himself and works diligently to achieve them. I am so proud of all of these kids. They are all standouts and our studio is so thrilled to have them representing us and the Florida Chapter.
AW: What do you think makes That’s Dancing unique among the many local dance studios in our area?
Tatiana: That’s Dancing is more like family and not as “forced” as other studios. They really get to know you and want to help you. All of the dance instructors truly try to help you improve.
Jillian: In addition to being with That’s Dancing for fifteen years, I’ve been with the Fusion Force Dance Company for eleven years. The older girls are like big sisters to the younger dancers. My teachers have always pushed me to be the best that I can be. My teachers never gave up on me, even when I was going through a rough time.
Morgan: The teachers are really nice. If you do something wrong, they just correct you right away.
Nick: It’s like family here. For me, it is family! Even if my Mom didn’t own this dance studio, I’d dance at That’s Dancing. It’s great to have role models like Jillian – we all look up to her.
Andrea: Just as an example of how everyone is like family, Nick recently shared a birthday party with the two other boys on our team. They invited every dancer from the Fusion Force Dance Company at That’s Dancing. They want to be around each other, they enjoy their teammates! The camaraderie is so lovely. I would pick every single one of these kids to be friends with my children in a heartbeat!
AW: What do you think makes That’s Dancing different, Andrea?
Andrea: We try to have our students embrace their strengths. You don’t have to be like anybody else. It’s not a cookie cutter program – it’s focused on the individual.
Tatiana: This is a very diverse dance studio, where they work on every type of dance. It makes everyone well-balanced.
Andrea: Our dancers can walk into a hip hop class, for example, and do well. We’re not just focused on one thing (like ballet). It’s all about “finding you in your dancing.”
Jillian: I’ve always had one type of dance class that’s hard for me, but when it comes to competitions, my scores are even across the board. It’s the versatility that makes the dancers at That’s Dancing great!
AW: What are your favorite types of dance?
Nick and Jillian: Lyrical and tap.
Tatiana: Tap and pointe.
Morgan: Jazz and modern.
AW: Congratulations and good luck to you – Morgan, Nick, Courtney, Tatiana and Jillian!
For more information about That’s Dancing, call (561) 642-9677 or visit their website www.ThatsDancing.com.