Seven Charleston area girls are gearing up for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as they prepare for the World Dance Championships in Germany next month.
Part of the SC Movin’ On Dance Co., home of Berkeley County School of Performing Arts and West Ashley School of Performing Arts, the dancers represent all areas of the Lowcountry and range in age from 10 to 15.
Artistic director and professional dancer Darlene Schrader shares details of the upcoming trip while sitting in her Goose Creek dance studio surrounded by trophies and a lifetime of dance instruction. Her delight is obvious as she talks about the competition or what she describes as the “Olympics of dancing.”
Schrader has taught 35 seasons of dance in the Charleston area and this is her first international competition. “I’m just thrilled,” she said.
She handpicked this team, most of which have several years of dance experience, and the girls began practicing in January, mastering new contortion movements and handstands.
In April, the team won at the regional United States Dance-sports competition, qualifying for the USA Dance Team.
The final selection of the USA Dance Team was made through a video review process by a panel of International Dance Organization judges in New York City.
Schrader attended the announcement in New York City, immediately sending parents a mass text message with news the girls were headed to the international competition.
The dance team, accompanied by Schrader and their families, heads to Riesa, Germany, on Nov. 23 where they will have to move through four rounds of competition to bring home the gold. They are competing in the junior small group division with a musical theater-style performance set to the song “Everything Old is New Again.”
It’s a significant commitment on the part of the young dancers and their parents to prepare for this level of competition.
The girls are rehearsing five days a week, often for four and five hours at a time. Schrader said they are giving more than 100 percent to their dancing, learning new moves and making changes to their 2-minute, 55-second routine.
“They are very talented young ladies,” said Schrader, who herself has been dancing since age 5. She is a former member of the Washington Ballet Co. in Washington, D.C., and Charleston Ballet Theatre as well as the former Ballet Protege Director for North and South Carolina.
Schrader has performed in many shows around Charleston, including at Spoleto Festival USA.
The cost for the seven team members to spend a week in Germany is about $5,000 each, which covers everything from airfare and lodging to uniforms,
American flags and 250 pins with both the U.S. and South Carolina flags the students can exchange with other dancers.
Schrader, the team members and their parents are working on fundraisers and soliciting donations and sponsorships to defray the dancers’ expenses.
Deanna Robertson, along with her husband and their two children, are going with 12-year-old Madison on the trip to Germany. “We are treating this as an experience we will never forget,” she said.
Madison has been dancing since she was 3 years old and is hooked. She started training with Schrader about four years ago and once she joined the competition team, that “sealed her fate,” Robertson said, adding that her daughter’s career plans are to dance at Walt Disney World and teach dancing.
The Robertson family’s trip to Germany is doubling as the family Christmas gift and they’ll use this trip as a chance to see the country while cheering on their daughter. “My feeling is that for an opportunity like this, we’d be crazy not to do it,” Robertson said.
For many of the girls this trip marks their first time flying on an airplane or traveling outside the country, so it’s filled with first-time experiences and scrapbook-worthy memories — plus the hope of bringing home the gold.
“We’re very honored and excited to represent the United States of America,” Schrader said. “How often do you get to do that?”