Students at Elmira’s Encore Dance Studio began their competitive season last week with a dance showcase on Feb. 26 and their first competition – the Bedazzled competition – being held at the River Run Centre in Guelph Mar. 5.
The competition group, lead by the studio’s new owner Chrystal Mazzotta, will feature dancers from ages eight to 18, who are set to compete in four events this season. Showcasing everything from traditional tap and ballet to the funkier jazz and hip-hop, Mazzotta is excited to be entering her tenth year as an instructor in competition.
“They show a lot of enthusiasm and energy on stage,” she said. “I think they’re going to do extremely well.”
The team won first place in the group performance category at last year’s Bedazzled competition, but neither the kids nor Mazzotta seem concerned with how they will place this year.
“I don’t have any expectations as far as trophies are concerned. I like to think of it more as a learning experience for the dancers,” Mazzotta said. “The trophies are just a bonus.”
Tyler Hergott, 8, will be competing in several numbers including a group tap category and a solo tap performance he describes as funky. Competitive dancing is all about having fun with his fellow dancers, he said.
“My favourite part is having fun and having people cheer for me. I like seeing my group members dance.”
Competitive dance requires more practice time for the students in order to build a higher skill level than recreational dancers. Instead of building a pressure-filled environment for children, Mazzotta believes it improves basic skills they will take with them throughout their lives.
“It gives them a better sense of self-confidence if they’re able to go up on stage, especially in front of judges and a large audience” she said. “It helps build their self-confidence in everything else that they do and it’s a great physical activity to keep the kids in shape.”
A lifelong dancer, Mazzotta began dancing at two years of age and competing at seven. She graduated from student to teacher at 18.
“It’s an adrenaline rush,” she said of her own competitive days. “Before you get on stage you have butterflies in your stomach, you get all nervous and sometimes you forget your entire routine. Then as soon as the music hits, you just remember all of it.”
Competitive dancing comes with higher costs than the recreational kind. Comparable to hockey costs, students will pay for multiple costumes, travel expenses and entry fees on top of the classes. Mazzotta feels the investment is worth it, exposing eager kids to a different level of dancing.
“Competition dancers dance five hours a week compared to recreational dancers who only do maybe and hour a week,” she said. “You’re spending more time within the dance world.”
For the Encore students hoping to make a career out of dancing, Mazzotta said competition will prepare them for parts of the industry that aren’t covered by traditional schools, like the National Ballet School.
“There are some people who would rather be performing on stage or in commercials, which is a completely different form of dance,” she said. “Students can travel and dance and perform on cruise ships. Some may want to be in music videos.”
Whether the students at Encore are having fun for now or looking to pursue a longer career, they are excited to be spending time together this competition season.
“It’s a home away from home. It’s really important for them to have that connection,” Mazzotta said.