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Bermuda dancers shine at Chicago competition

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Incredible experience: Bermuda Dance Academy’s Sanziniah Raynor, Savannah Denkins, Yannick Rochester, Tjaia Butler and Aanya Mills received the Judges’ Choice Award for Keep Rising, a dance they performed at Adrenaline Dance in Chicago, Illinois (Photograph supplied)

Hundreds of dancers from numerous Chicago-area schools hit the stage and still, the troupe from Bermuda Dance Academy stood out.

Eight dancers, all between the ages of 8 and 13, received accolade after accolade for their “outstanding performances” at the Adrenaline Dance Convention and Competition in Illinois.

Aviya Mills, 6, was too young to compete but participated in some of the classes and received a scholarship to attend next year.

Nikia Manders, BDA’s owner, head teacher and choreographer, couldn’t be more thrilled.

“They pushed themselves more. You see the potential in children but until they’re in an environment where they have to really showcase their best selves they sometimes hold back,” she said.

“We had already competed in three dances and they had made up their minds that they were going to get a platinum score.

“They had an idea of what they needed to do to improve their score and really pushed themselves. They definitely grew from the experience for sure.”

The last time BDA participated in the event was in 2020, just before the start of the pandemic.

Ms Manders, along with teachers Ashley Smith and Shawnae Brangman, travelled to Chicago with the nine dancers and their parents for the annual convention which ran from February 8 to 12.

“It was a good size. It was a great place for the children to get comfortable but still the classes were big, there were almost 200 students in a class.

“It was definitely a great experience for them to see it, for the teachers, for the parents. They enjoyed the environment.

Outstanding performance: Bermuda Dance Academy travelled to Chicago, Illinois, for Adrenaline Dance Convention and Competition, where the eight dancers received accolades from organisers (Photograph supplied)

“Bermuda Dance Academy extends its heartfelt gratitude to the supportive teachers and choreographers, Ashley Smith and Shawnae Brangman, parents who attended the trip, office manager Linda Manders and director of transport Maquel Bailey.

“The entire delegation had an incredible experience and created many wonderful memories,” Ms Manders said.

BDA’s National Performance Team earned scores ranging from “high gold” to “platinum”.

Some of the schools that participated brought as many as 200 dancers to compete.

Two full days of competition started at 7am and ran well into the night; the rest of the time was filled with classes.

“They worked really, really hard. It’s a jam-packed weekend. They really pushed themselves.

“The younger ones, who were eight and were going for the first time, we told them that in order for them to be recognised they would have to have fun, they would have to be engaged and they and it was incredible to see those three that were in [Party Time] – all three of them were phenomenal. They really pushed themselves and it was really beautiful to watch.”

Sanziniah Raynor, Savannah Denkins, Yannick Rochester, Tjaia Butler, Aanya Mills, Tessanne Williams, Nia Cross, and Riley Evans began practising last year after auditioning to take part.

By the medals: how BDA scored

1, Party Time – Tap

Choreographer: Shawnae Brangman

Dancers: Tessanne Williams, Nia Cross and Riley Evans

Score: High gold, 10th in category

2, Unlocked – Contemporary

Choreographers: Makalya Wilson and Nikia Manders

Dancers: Savannah Denkins and Tjaia Butler

Score: High gold

3, Trendsetter – Jazz

Choreographer: Nikia Manders

Dancers: Sanziniah Raynor, Savannah Denkins and Yannick Rochester

Score: High gold

4, Keep Rising – Modern

Choreographer: Nikia Manders

Dancers: Sanziniah Raynor, Savannah Denkins, Yannick Rochester, Tjaia Butler and Aanya Mills

Score: Platinum, 8th in category and recipient of the Judges’ Choice Award

5, Bouncin’ – Hip hop

Choreographer: Ashley Smith

Dancers: Sanziniah Raynor, Savannah Denkins, Yannick Rochester, Tjaia Butler, Aanya Mills, Tessanne Williams, Nia Cross and Riley Evans

Score: High gold

6, Drop It – Hip hop

Choreographer: Ashley Smith

Dancer: Sanziniah Raynor

Score: Platinum (highest scoring dance of the competition)

Well prepared by their teachers, Ms Manders could only hope the instruction would pay off in Chicago.

“We just hoped for the best. There were only three students that were at the competition last time when we went and they were only 8 and 9; now they're 12 and 13.

“They’d experienced it before so they were a bit aware but obviously, it's a completely different lens when they're 8 years old compared to when they’re 12. But definitely we’ve been working hard since then and they were definitely the leaders of the group.

“As time went on they just got more and more inspired.”

BDA dancer Sanziniah received the highest score of the competition for her hip-hop solo.

As a result of the “outstanding performance” she received a scholarship and was invited to perform separately.

Scholarships were also given to Yannick, Tessanne, Riley and Aviya. Ms Manders especially loved seeing how the convention developed the youngest dancer.

“The six-year-old, she didn't compete. I don't take them until they are 8. But, her sister was competing, so she was happy to join the classes and she just gained so much confidence when she was there.

“She was so impressed to receive a scholarship to be able to go back next year. It was incredible,” she said.

“The convention was huge. One of the classes was in a big ballroom and they couldn't even put their stuff in the room because students took up the entire room.

“So it was definitely great for our students to be recognised. They came back very inspired and that's the whole purpose, right? To get them inspired for what comes next.”

For more information about Bermuda Dance Academy, visitwww.bermudadanceacademy.comor call 333-8111 or 799-7760. For information on Adrenaline Dance, visitwww.adrenalinedance.com/chicago

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Published February 23, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated February 24, 2024 at 8:05 am)

Bermuda dancers shine at Chicago competition

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