In late April, I took the Success Academy Network Dance Team to the regional division of one of the most prestigious dance competitions in the country, Onstage New York. This is my first year as head coach of the Network Dance Team and I thought being exposed to dance at this level of competition would help them understand both the opportunities available — Onstage New York is part of the NYC Dance Alliance that gives out over $22 million in college scholarships each year — and how good you have to be to take advantage of those opportunities. “Even if they fail, they’ll learn how hard they have to work to forge a path in the dance world,” I reasoned.
My kids love to dance, but in the months, weeks, and days leading up to the competition they questioned why I was pushing them so hard. They were training more than ten hours a week, meeting on Sundays for six-hour sessions, and I was intense in our rehearsals — the scholars often called me crazy. I explained that they would be competing against kids who dance more than twice those hours each week and have private coaches, but it was hard for them to grasp what they were getting into until we arrived at the competition.
You know that reality show about crazy “dance moms”? That’s a real thing. We arrived at the competition three hours before the team’s performance, and those three hours were eye-opening for my scholars. “Mr. Anthony! We just saw two moms screaming at each other over a costume!” reported one. “Welcome to the competitive dance world!” I grinned.
Together, we watched three hours of dancing, assessing the competition and getting to know what the judges were looking for. The scholars were nervous, but while I had driven them hard leading up to the competition, now I was as cool as a cucumber. “You have put in the work,” I told them. “It’s time to show what you’ve been working on, and if you give it 100%, everything will come together.”
When they got up onstage, I couldn’t have been prouder. They had worked hard, grown a ton, and were knocking it out of the park. The judges agreed. The team won the platinum trophy for their division and special Judges’ Awards for choreography and style.
When they got up onstage, I couldn’t have been prouder. They had worked hard, grown a ton, and were knocking it out of the park.
After their jubilation died down, the scholars became reflective: It was clear they understood my intentions in bringing them to this competition. “You really wanted us to experience this,” said one of the scholars. “I did,” I said, “and now look what you’ve accomplished.”
The children I work with have tremendous potential — many of my Harlem 2 dancers have appeared on Cake Boss, two reached the final rounds of audition for The Lion King, and in June, some of my scholars will be performing at The Apollo! I want them to truly understand that with hard work and commitment, the dance world is open to them. For the Network Dance Team to receive such a high award at their first serious competition, after so much effort and preparation, is the best possible lesson for them — and I know it’s just the beginning of what they will achieve.
Congratulations to all the dancers on the Network Dance Team!
Chase Bazin Harlem North Central
Damani Ruiz Bronx 1 Middle
Emilee Ortiz Midtown West Middle
Empress Martin Bronx 1 Middle
Imani Trimiar Harlem East
Jayden Blackman Ditmas Park Middle
Jaylen Wallace Ditmas Park Middle
Keziah Mickle Harlem West
Nevaeh-Nichelle Gibson Harlem Central
Robert Lawrence Harlem North Central
Todji Wilson Harlem Central
Wynter Felton Harlem East
Xavier Porter Harlem West
Nevaeh Edmund Harlem East
Nyjhea Major Harlem East
Wuraola Adetola Bronx 1 Middle