By Amanda Hatfield
BREVARD -- Six dance teams from a local studio took center stage this month, earning numerous awards for their talents.
Melbourne-based Dance Mania All-Stars competed in the Universal Dance Association National Dance Team Championship on Feb. 2, where six of its eight competing teams sashayed away with national titles and two bids to the world championship competition this April.
"For this competition, there are teams from all over the country competing," Dance Mania coach and owner Dana Parsons said.
With each division ranging from five to 15 teams, based on the number of entries, competition is fierce.
"You have to qualify one of two ways to go to nationals," Coach Parsons said. "You can attend one of Universal Dance Association's summer dance camps or submit a video of your team."
Coach Parsons chooses to send in videos of her groups each year, as there are not many camps located in the Central Florida area for this specific competition.
"When you send in the video, it's judged by a panel and you receive a letter if you qualify," Coach Parsons added.
This year's competition marked the most titles Dance Mania All-Stars has won at nationals.
"We were on cloud nine," Coach Parsons said. "We weren't expecting it, so it made winning so much sweeter."
Unlike other competitions Dance Mania All-Stars attends, the National Dance Team Championship was held for only one day.
"As a coach, I didn't get to watch a lot of the teams we went against, so that made me even more anxious," Coach Parsons said. "I had no clue how we would place."
At the National Dance Team Championship, divisions were broken down by age, furthered by style.
"Some dancers at our studio are in just one routine, while others are in four," Coach Parsons said.
After placing fourth in last year's national competition, Dance Mania's mini jazz team beat out three other teams from around the country for the coveted national champion title.
"This was a huge jump for them, as they are one of the youngest mini teams I have coached," Coach Parsons added. "Their strength and talent is amazing."
Ages ranging from 5 to 9 years old, Coach Parsons named her mini jazz team the "best overall performance" of her competing teams.
With a performance that was as close to perfect energetically, technically, and with exquisite timing, Dance Mania's mini jazz team had the full package.
"They've only been to one competition this year prior to nationals," Coach Parsons said. "They aren't seasoned, so to achieve what they did was incredible. I am so proud of them."
Youth Pom was also named national champions in a group of nine teams.
Contrary to its name, the "pom" style of dance has nothing to do with cheerleading.
"Pom is somewhat new to our state, and I get a lot of questions about what it is from parents," Coach Parsons said.
A highly athletic form of dancing, Coach Parsons describes the style as "a kind of dance where artist meets the athlete."
"Pom can only be done within a group because of the visuals the dancers create with their pom-poms," Coach Parsons said. "It's a highly technical dance level that applies the same skills you learn in ballet and jazz, with athleticism and sharp visual techniques."
Dance Mania All-Stars youth pom group wowed judges with their "groove" theme, that incorporated a 1970s kind-of-feel.
Youth Jazz pulled off the seemingly impossible -- outscoring seven other teams in its tough division to be named national champions for the second year in a row.
"There was a lot of pressure on the coaches and dancers to repeat because they set the bar so high," Coach Parsons said.
Not wanting to put her dancers in the mindset that they had to repeat, Coach Parsons came up with a way to ease some of the pressure her youth jazz team felt.
"We let them know many judges are the same and that they would remember who they are," Coach Parsons said. "In order to excel, I told them that they had to be better than last year, as if they were a new team."
Outscoring the second-place team with an astounding six-point deficit, Dance Mania's Junior Pom team was also named a national champion.
"This team's theme was 'Hello-Goodbye','' Coach Parsons said. "Their routine was very visually involved, and I think that truly set them apart."
Extremely pleased with junior pom's domination, Coach Parson's attributes their success to ability.
"Their overall performance and technicality was equal to that of a senior-level team," Coach Parsons added. "I purposely gave them more intense choreography because I knew they could handle it."
Another Dance Mania All-Stars team to light up the competition was the Senior Jazz group. In a field of eight teams, senior jazz was named national champions and also received an "at-large" bid to the World Championship in April.
"An 'at-large' bid means the team can attend Worlds, but you have to pay your own way," Coach Parsons said. "That means the team is responsible for their hotel, registration for the competition and food."
Fortunately for Dance Mania All-Stars, the World Championship is held every year at Orlando's Epcot; although the cost is still substantial, it is much lower for Dance Mania since there are no major travel expenses.
"Senior Jazz still has the opportunity to upgrade to a 'partial paid bid' at two more national competitions -- Jam Fest in Ohio at the end of February and another event in California at the beginning of April," Coach Parsons said. "This happened for us last year, but it's still anyone's game."
Receiving an upgraded bid is no easy task. With the number of bids varying in each competition, it is entirely up to the event producer as to how the bids are distributed.
For example, if senior jazz receives an upgraded bid, the competition directors will determine what to do with the bid the team already received.
Dance Mania All-Stars Senior Pom team placed first runner-up; however, they received a "partial paid bid" to the World Championship in April.
"We are extremely happy with second-place," Coach Parsons added. "Senior pom was only one and a half points off from first place, with performing a routine that wasn't their best."
By scoring a 'partial paid bid' to worlds, the senior pom team received $5,000 to assist with competition expenses.
"Our dancers will get Disney Park-Hopper tickets for three days since the competition is held at Epcot," Coach Parsons said. "This bid also includes a stay at the Dolphin Swan Resort, competition fees paid for, world tee shirts and a majority of their meals."
So how did Dance Mania's senior pom team get a more valuable bid over the senior jazz group, who were named national champions?
"In this competition, four 'partial paid' and four 'at-large' bids were given out based on score," Coach Parsons said.
The four highest scoring teams in all of the senior and open categories received "partial paid" bids, while the next four received "at-large" bids.
Dance Mania All-Stars Open Jazz group received second runner up in their highly competitive division.
Open jazz is looking forward to Ohio's Jam Fest to better its standing and hopefully snag a bid to the World Championship.
"We're going into Ohio completely focused," Coach Parsons added. "We've made changes to the routine and have a positive mindset of not only having to win our division, but score high enough to receive a bid."
With the future ever-present in Dance Mania All-Stars' view, Coach Parsons said she extremely proud of her dancer's success.
"Being named national champions is a huge honor," Coach Parsons said. "I could not be more proud of my teams and the spirit, dedication and excitement they show."
Dance Mania All-Stars is located at 4200 Dow Road Suite A, Melbourne.
For more information about Dance Mania All-Stars, visit www.dancemaniaallstars.org or call the studio at (321) 254-9915.