Dancers prepare to step into New York spotlight

On their feet!

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2002

After proving their dancing prowess in Alaska, the Aurora Dance Company from Vergine's Dance Studio in Soldotna is setting its sights quite a bit higher this summer -- all the way to New York.

The junior and senior dance teams from the studio, along with an entourage of coaches and relatives, will attend a New York Dance Alliance regional and national dance competition in New York City July 1-8.

If the group's performance in its last competition is any indicator, the dancers are sure to measure up to the challenge.


Rebekah Tempel and Heather Benton practice a ballet dance.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

The dance company won several awards in a 5, 6, 7, 8 Showtime competition held in Anchorage Feb. 9 and 10. Both the junior and senior teams took first place in their divisions, and one of the senior dancers, Kehau Thompson, won first place in solo dance.

"That's where the girls really shined, everyone noticed them by their ability," said Vergine Hedberg, owner of the Soldotna dance studio. "The owner (of the competition) said she didn't know there were dancers like that in Alaska. We received a lot of recognition just from that competition."

Every year, the Aurora Dance Company participates in a different competition. The dancers have competed in Alaska, Washington state, California and even as far away as Florida, but this will be their first trip to New York.


Heather Penhale and Kehau Thompson stretch out during ballet rehearsal

Photo by Jenny Neyman

The purpose of attending different competitions is to expose the dancers to different styles of dancing and training and different levels of competition, Hedberg said.

"The reason they even came to this level is because they've been getting experience out of state," she said.

And the New York competition will be yet another learning experience.

"It will be the biggest one and the toughest one they've been to because of the quality of where they're going," Hedberg said. "I know there will be a lot of awesome dancers. It's a wonderful opportunity for the dancers to go and learn. We're not going to win trophies, we're going to give the dancers an opportunity to excel outside Alaska."

The dance company has been in existence for seven years. It has grown in membership since its inception, and some of the original members are still part of the group.

"Everyone here is like a family," said Kathryn Lindow, member of the senior dance company team. "Everybody knows each other, and we're very together. When we go to competitions we are all unified. Very few companies take on the professionalism we've been trying to get here."


Benton, Whittney Hallmark, background, and Carlee Sounart perform an aerial move in their hip-hop routine.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

The junior and senior groups are preparing 10 dances, ranging in style from ballet to hip hop, to take to the New York competition. The teams will first dance in the regional competition and, if they qualify, proceed to the national one.

To pay for its trip, the dance team will hold several fund-raising events over the next few months, including an auction May 10, a garage sale June 6-8 and a dance show with guest singers and dancers April 26 and 27 in the Renee Henderson Auditorium at Kenai Central High School.

It will take a lot of commitment and hard work to prepare for the New York competition, but dedication is not something the dancers lack, as most of them practice five days a week.

"It's wonderful for these children's futures," Hedberg said. "It will make them better people in society. Dancing is a wonderful way to train these kids because it teaches them discipline, how to be organized, how to be go-getters, and it really encourages them to go do whatever they put their minds to. It's a skill they learn and can take anywhere. They can make a career out of it or just do it for fun. It keeps them out of trouble, especially in Alaska."

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