- June 30, 2017
Chain-link fence pieces line the stage, and a large rocking platform sits behind them. Dressed in glitzy black leotards, the Shooting Stars Dance School performers climb, rock and dance, hoping the routine will earn them enough votes to give them a “Best Performance of 2019” award.
This is the second year in a row that the company is being recognized for the Industry Dance Awards. Last year, the studio won the People’s Choice Award at the Applause Talent dance competition.
Shooting Stars is the only Florida studio recognized in the Best Performance category this year.
Melissa Stokes, the owner of Shooting Stars, in Clermont, choreographed the show, called The Climb, which features 18 dancers from West Orange and South Lake counties. Dancers, who are 15 to 19 years old, began working with the unusual props last year and started on the routine in January.
If the routine wins the title of Best Performance, Stokes will fly out to Los Angeles for the 2019 Industry Dance Awards, “the most prestigious dance event of the year,” she said.
There are 10 nominees up for the title, and the winner is decided by community vote. To watch the performance and to vote, go to industrydanceawards.com/2019/vote/205/best-performance-of-2019z.
Star Dance Alliance owns several competitions, including Star Power and Applause, and ranks several dances. The Climb earned the most points in the SDA power rankings and was No. 1 during the entire season.
It earned a perfect score at Star Power Regionals, in Lakeland, as well as a Victory Cup at Nexstar Nationals, in Orlando.
Dancers in The Climb performance are Riley Welch and Hugo Hollander, both of Windermere; Jennie Seamon, Shay Henderson and Maggie Kelley, all of Winter Garden; Destini Hendricks, of Ocoee; Geovani Figueroa, of Groveland; Erykha Boulay, of Lecanto; and Maia McClone, Chantal Key, Delany Bush, Bayleigh Miller-Ulrich, Katie Kovar, Tatum Russo, Chloe Davis, Christian Campbell, Alexa Tarquine and Arie Francois, all of Clermont.
Two of the dancers, Hendricks and Welch, acknowledge the teamwork involved in the routine and are excited to see how far it will go in the competition.
Hendricks starts the performance on top of the rocking prop before moving to the middle of the stage.
“Right into it I’m doing crazy things,” she said.
The recent graduate of Ocoee High School has been a dancer since she was 3. She leaves Aug. 28 for New York City to attend Pace University.
“I’m going for the dance program,” Hendricks said. “I want to be able to dance Broadway, I want to be able to dance backup, I want to be able to dance on a cruise ship. I just want to do it all. … I hope the Lord just continues to open doors.”
Welch has been dancing for 15 years and currently is captain of the West Orange High School dance team, where she teaches, reviews and perfects the dancers’ performances. The rising senior also leads the practices and leads the team at football and basketball games.
“My part in The Climb begins by working with the gates in the front of the stage,” Welch said. “We support the gates as much as possible to help support the girls who are jumping on top of them to feel as safe as possible. The gates are also not the easiest to work with. A lot of teamwork is required to make sure they rotate at the same time and move as smoothly as possible.
“I always try to put all of my energy into the dance, especially when we are dancing as one big group, because those are the sections when we can really impact the audience,” she said. “Towards the end of the dance, I assist in catching Tatum (Russo), who jumps off of the rocking prop in the back. In order for this part to go as smoothly as possible, we all get to the base of the prop as quickly as possible, we make eye contact with Tatum so she knows we are ready, and we whisper cues to make sure we are all together in getting Tatum up into the next lift.
“Overall, my role, and everyone’s role, is to bring so much energy, power and precision to the stage so that the judges cannot look away,” Welch said.
After graduation, Welch would like to participate on a college dance team and teach dance around the United States during the summer. She also is considering majoring in dance as it can be applied as a therapy to certain diseases.
“All I know for sure is that I want to continue my dancing, no matter what,” she said.