Dancing our way to top studio takes time, hard work

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Do you know what it takes to become a top dance studio? Lots of work, dedication, style and team effort.

We had the privilege of experiencing a Top Studio award in May at a dance competition in Savannah. Here's how we came about that success:

First, the number of participants from a studio is critical. Not only does the number of people competing matter, but the results of their dancing also come into play.

A point system is used when calculating. It extends to many levels where there are awards for top studio, top teacher, top student and even top student in each level of dance.

The work begins many months in advance to prepare each student for their individual ability. Each student must be categorized into a level and can dance only the syllabus (or set of steps) for that particular level. The levels are bronze, silver and gold.

Along with the levels, there are age categories as well. Once the level and age category are decided, entries must be sent to the competition organizers at least 30 days in advance.

Approximately a week before the competition, studios receive their dance schedules. Students may sign up for as many as 200 dances. These dances may be spread throughout the day and are approximately 1 minute, 30 seconds long.

They will include Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz, ChaCha, Rumba, Swing, Bolero, Mambo, and a few others.

Dancers arrive at a competition either ready to go, or their preparation can begin with vendors on site who can do hair and makeup. Next is registration and warm up.

Then, Heat 1 begins. A heat is one dance for 1 minute, 30 seconds on the dance floor. A competition might include from 300 to 1,500 heats. Each heat can include multiple couples on the floor dancing the same dance but at a different level.

Judges are positioned around the dance floor so they have a vantage point to see all the couples at some point. Each judge has only about 30 seconds to evaluate each couple, depending on how many are out on the floor at one time. Judges have to remain extremely focused.

Throughout this most recent competition, our students stayed at the same high-energy level and stayed consistent technically - two things that really count.

To be a top studio requires the highest number of entries (not necessarily highest number of dancers) and the highest results in those individual dances.

Our students also took home many individual first place awards.

In earning our top studio honors, everyone was prepared, technically clean and they knew their material. It was a team effort, well worth the time, work and dedication put forth.

Sandro Virag is a partner and instructor at Fred Astaire Dance Studios of Hilton Head, located in Bluffton at Seaquins Ballroom. www.fredastairehiltonhead.com

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