Why the Groove Crew Wants to Give Back
“We truly do care about each and every dancer.”
The staff at Groove Dance Competition love to invest in the new generation of young dance artists because they know these performers are the future of the industry. The many members of Groove’s team who grew up dancing and competing know firsthand how powerful dance can be in a young person’s life. It’s because of this that the Groove team does what it does, and is always seeking to motivate, inspire and encourage each student dancer.
Alexandra DeTrolio, score keeper for Groove, started dancing at only two-and-a-half years old. After growing up a competition student, she later performed professionally at Madison Square Garden and as a member of the New Jersey Tap Ensemble. At each Groove event, she says she uses her position to spur on dancers.
“As a scorekeeper/announcer, my voice is the last thing they hear before their music starts, so I try to be really upbeat and positive about how I welcome them to the stage,” DeTrolio shares. “It really sets the tone for how pumped up they get!”
As a dance teacher, DeTrolio knows what goes into being ready for those two-and-a-half minutes on stage, so she cheers them on. “The more I can cheer on what these kids are doing, the better they will feel, the more their confidence will grow, and they will want to stick with this,” she says.
Anjelica Roman, awards coordinator for Groove, identifies with this idea of “confidence”. Having competed from the age of seven until her late teens, she knows that dancing for judges and a crowd can teach poise and self-assurance, as it did with her.
Roman shares, “Competing taught me to be confident, how to put my best foot forward even under pressure, to work as a team, be supportive, and to be a hard worker in order to succeed and reach my goals.”
This is why she seeks to give back through Groove. She explains, “My goal now is to instill [these traits] into all the dancers who walk in my path. Training dancers and sharing my love for the arts is where I belong.”
Kendall Saunders, runner and assistant stage manager for Groove, has been dancing for 16 years and grew up as a competitive dancer. Like DeTrolio and Roman, she is always looking for opportunities to encourage and motivate dancers.
“Since I work backstage, I am always around the dancers,” she says. “I wish them good luck, congratulate them, and give words of encouragement when they get nervous. I remember what it was like when I had a few numbers to go and my stomach was in knots. I try to always remind them to take a breath and just dance! It's always a great feeling seeing that younger dancer, who was nervous just a few minutes ago, get off stage with a beaming smile.”
Nicole Hulsart, stage manager for Groove, not only manages the technical elements of the competition to make sure everything runs smoothly, but she also guides other staff members. She started competing at just nine years old herself and says the skills she gained were invaluable.
“The skills that were later influential in my career are lifelong skills I will always use,” Hulsart explains. “Competitive dance taught me how to work together with a team. It taught me how to lose and work harder next time. It also taught me to support everyone, not just your own teammates.”
These skills are ones that she’s now making sure are valued by Groove participants. She supports them and edifies them when they do well on stage and off. “Being stage manager gives you the opportunity to come across almost every single dancer who crosses the stage,” she says. “I love giving them support and encouraging them to be the best they can.”
Ryotaro Alen Motoki (“Alen Mo”), score keeper and emcee for Groove, is another employee who seeks to positively influence dance artists. Having danced himself since he was 11 years old, he believes in the affirmative power of dance. He hopes to use his roles within Groove to be a driving force that provokes high energy and good vibes. To dancers, he wants to encourage teamwork and a fear-free mentality.
“Do not be afraid to fail or stumble; always strive high,” he advises. “I have moments when I will mispronounce a number, or even when my voice cracks – it’s embarrassingly hilarious – but that makes me work harder and reduce the amount of mistakes I’ve made. Same applies for those moments in the studio where you may think you simply can’t, but I say you can. No one moment determines the rest of your life, and you have the entirety of it to learn and grow. So what if you don’t win, and so what if you’re not the best. It should only make you want to work harder, and eventually you will win. Competition is good not when it makes you bitter but when it pushes you to be better.”
So what led all these upbeat influencers to choose Groove as their way to give back to the next generation of dancers?
Saunders says, “Having been a competitive dancer, I can say that Groove is like no other competition! They strive to give not only the dancers the best experience but also the families. They play games, give out prizes, create recap videos of the weekend and so much more. Groove does everything they can to create a memorable weekend, and we truly do care about each and every dancer. I wouldn't want to be a part of any other team.”
DeTrolio adds, “I have been to a lot of competitions, and I can honestly say Groove is all about the kids. It can be a very long weekend, and we keep them excited the whole time. Parent dance battles, giant beach balls on stage and lots of upbeat, fun music to dance to while waiting for awards to begin.”
And Mo says, “I think one of the most important things we do at Groove is share the hospitality we show to one another to all those attending. The directors and the crew have throughout the season created genuine connection with the dancers, teachers, directors and parents, and every time we return to a city, it is as if everyone is at a get-together more than a competition.”
He continues, “To make an event something more is one of the best things any competition can do, and from my experience as a once competitive dancer to a worker for a competition, I believe Groove does it best.”
By Chelsea Thomas of Dance Informa.