The audience couldn’t help but smile.
Up on stage stood a gaggle of girls - 9-and 10-year-olds in checkered miniskirts and knee-high boots, shaking their hips and grooving to a ‘60s tune.
“These boots are made for walking,” some mouthed as the music blared in the background. “… One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.”
The jazz routine was part of the 1998 Spotlight Dance Cup, a regional competition that attracts hundreds of young dancers from studios all over the Northwest. The two-day event kicked off Saturday at the Ferris High School Auditorium with performances by kids as young as 3. Older, more experienced dancers are scheduled to perform today.
“I’m nervous,” said Cydney Hooper of Spokane, practicing her tap routine backstage. The 8-year-old, who has been dancing for three years now, practiced several times a week to prepare for the dance cup.
Dressed in a black and gold costume complete with frills and bustle, Hooper clicked her heels and flailed her legs like wings as she danced to “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.”
“We try to encourage them to have fun,” said her teacher, Julie Hanson, an instructor at Spokane’s Dance Emporium. “If they win or lose, we tell them to do their best and entertain people.” The audience applauded wildly as little girls with Shirley Temple hair and sequined costumes sashayed across the dance floor. Others were more subdued, moving to slower ballet routines. In billowy pastel tutus, they pirouetted around the stage, stopping briefly for an elegant arabesque.
The kids were competing for dozens of trophies displayed prominently at the front of the auditorium.
“It’s very competitive, but it’s also an opportunity to perform,” said Michelle Kresge, director of Spotlight Events Inc. and organizer of the competition. “I want the kids to feel rewarded. I want them to have fun and feel good about what they do.”
Some of the winners from this weekend’s contest will go on to compete in the national championship in Las Vegas.
The auditorium also was filled with aspiring dancers such as Kiley Archer of Post Falls, who travels to Spokane to take lessons. The 13-year-old had several costume changes Saturday. She was dancing in jazz, tap and ballet routines as well as her own solos.
“Don’t be nervous,” she told Hooper before her performance. “Just remember to smile and don’t forget strong arms.”
Young dancers usually don’t have many opportunities to perform for a large audience, said Janice Barber, the stage manager. Sometimes they get stage fright. They forget their moves in the middle of a routine and run off the stage crying.
“We just try to joke with the kids to keep them from getting scared,” Barber said.
Besides giving them a chance to show their stuff, the competition also gives dancers recognition for their work, Kresge said.
Unlike basketball or football players, students in performing arts don’t usually get the credit they deserve, she said. They practice for hours, and their routines are just as physically demanding as traditional sports.
“I want them to strive for excellence,” said Kresge, who has more than 23 years of dance training. “They need to be rewarded for their work.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Competition The Spotlight Dance Cup is a regional competition for dancers from all over the Northwest. The two-day event continues today at the Ferris High School Auditorium.