"Dance Olympus/DANCEAMERICA is a dual learning experience," says executive director Jackie Del Prete. "Students learn on the stage, but also in workshops-you can't just come and compete. Performing is a wonderful experience, but then you take it back to the classroom to work on technique and choreography." Three of the five teachers at Dance Olympus (the convention component; DANCEAMERICA is the competition) are judges, which means they have watched the dancers all weekend and can expand upon strengths and weaknesses in class. Standout faculty includes Sarah Jo Fazio and Sam Fiorello, who head up the Dancer of the Year program.
New this year is a Tots category, for dancers ages 4-6. "We wanted to give younger dancers the opportunity to start competing and to take our workshop classes," says Del Prete. "There will be special classes geared to their level, taught by teachers trained to work with young children."
The Nationals city varies from year to year, as do the opportunities that go along with each location. For example, at the 2008 DANCEAMERICA finals in Orlando, top-scoring routines were chosen to perform in two evening shows at Disney World. In 2009, New York City Nationals will give students the chance to visit the dance capital of the world. "People get very excited about experiencing everything that New York has to offer," Del Prete says, "from Broadway to the range of other classes and studios."
Del Prete credits much of DANCEAMERICA and Dance Olympus' success to founding directors Art and Nancy Stone. "We have a very loyal audience and I think one reason they keep coming back is that Art and Nancy have a great feel for people. They really care," Del Prete says. "From the top down, we foster an atmosphere that is professional but also caring. …