Windermere High student finishes in top 5 of national dance contest
Ava Madara’s journey in BroadwayWorld’s Next On Stage dance competition is over now, but she shared what she learned from the one-of-a-kind experience.
| 2:31 p.m. October 7, 2020
Since she was a little girl, Ava Madara’s heart has belonged on stage.
The Windermere High senior has been dancing since she was a toddler, and her love of the arts expanded as she discovered singing and acting through musical theater.
It’s paid off, too: Ava recently finished in the top five of BroadwayWorld’s Next On Stage: Dance Edition competition. Sponsored by LaDuca — which creates shoes specifically for dancers — the competition shines a spotlight on talented, young musical theater dancers.
BroadwayWorld announced the contest in August, inviting students to submit videos of themselves dancing to a song from the musical theater canon to enter. Ava competed in the high school age group. It was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
“I think it’s such a good outlet of expression, and being on stage, for me, is just the most raw form of myself.” — Ava Madara
“I always look at BroadwayWorld, I’m always on Playbill, I’m always searching all these musical-theater websites to see if there’s any auditions or scholarship opportunities,” Ava said. “I saw this and I was like, ‘Oh, I have to put in a video.’ It’s the first time they’ve ever done this.”
The contest received hundreds of entries, and those moving on to the next round each week had a weekend to record and submit a new song within a specific theme for the next round. Among the pieces Ava submitted as she moved on to each round were her takes on “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” from “Sweet Charity,” “An American in Paris” and “Mein Herr” from “Cabaret.”
Each week was a surprise as Ava and her family waited to hear whether she would be moving onto the next round. She first made it into the top 15.
“(My family and I) would freak out at the computer when they’d announce my name,” Ava said. “It’s a little nerve-wracking sometimes, because you’re like, ‘Am I going to make it? Am I not going to make it?’ I was so grateful to be in the top 15. To keep hearing my name over and over again each week was really cool. It was a really nice feeling.”
Once it got down to the top 10, BroadwayWorld featured weekly live shows on Facebook with Broadway judges, who provided feedback.
“Hearing Broadway choreographers even say my name and acknowledge me and give me feedback on my dancing — that was such a rewarding feeling as a dancer,” she said. “I just never thought I’d be in contact with Phil LaDuca, and the fact that he watched and critiqued my dancing is just amazing.”
Overall, Ava made it into the top five — a feat in and of itself. Although she didn’t make it into the top three, she is grateful for the opportunity to compete and learn from the best.
“I got such amazing feedback from Broadway directors and choreographers who were in the competition, and I think getting that exposure was really amazing and really helpful for starting my musical-theater career as I leave high school,” Ava said. “To make it to the top five is insane, nonetheless. … I think it’s such a good outlet of expression, and being on stage, for me, is just the most raw form of myself.”
Now, Ava is focusing her efforts on applying to her top schools for a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theater. She also hopes to minor in both dance and business. Her advice to others in her shoes is to pay attention to your storytelling on stage.
“My biggest advice is show who you are on the camera, because one of the biggest things the judges would tell everyone is, ‘We know you have the turns, we know you have the jumps, we know you have the technique.’ It’s (more about) ‘Who are you, and what are you giving when you perform? How are you really selling this performance and showing who you are?’ I thought that was really helpful. How you’re telling the story is the most important part. And I really took that to heart when filming my videos as the weeks went on.”