Sparkle, Spotlights and Competitive Dance on South Padre Island


At the far end of our little island, the South Padre Island Convention Centre hosted the Dance Educators of America competitive dance conference earlier this month. SPI was the first stop on a 17-city regional DEA tour. Here, hundreds of talented dancers, dance moms, and dance family convene — including my daughter and me.

A Newbie Mom’s Glimpse Into the Competitive Dance World

This year, my daughter is not here to compete, but instead to cheer on and support her ballet family, as well as participate in the DEA dance workshops. The experience is spectacular and overwhelming. Everything inside looks exactly the way the tv shows portray — but with a friendlier atmosphere.

Long black curtains surround the room, and endless rows of chairs fill the auditorium. The judges sit cozily behind a low blue curtain. They call dance numbers and song titles, and one-by-one the talent appears on stage. I watch the judges’ reactions to all the beautiful dance routines. The dancers perform pieces from multiple dance disciplines, including flamenco, jazz, lyrical, modern, tap, and more.

I couldn’t even pretend I know this world. While my daughter has been with her studio for two years, this is her first year on a pre-competitive team.

Watching the competitive dance routines is a huge learning experience for me, and more importantly, for my five-year-old who dreams of becoming a “Princess Ballerina” at Disney World when she grows up.

While my daughter and I silently soak in the competition excitement, the real dance moms rush their sons and daughters to-and-fro before the judges call their numbers. One family brings a flashing sign to support their dancer. Sparkles, sequins, and swarovski twinkle around the room. Woohoos, cheers, and applause fill the convention centre in between routines. The judges smile and bob their heads to a Village People routine. A beautiful pointe piece titled “Aurora’s Variation” gives me goosebumps.

My five-year-old tells me her favorite routine is a Toy Story themed solo. She asks me (more than once) if it’s her turn to go dance on stage yet. I explain to her that she’s here to learn and support the other company members — her first competitive dance event isn’t until March. She’s sad that she won’t be dancing, but her face lights up when she recognizes the kids from her home studio on stage.

On the last day, when the workshop ends, my daughter is so excited to show me the jazz routine she learned to Rockin’ Robin.

Our novice experience at Dance Educator’s of America is 100% a positive one. E tells me she learned about “twirling, smiling, and being straight and pointed.” When her competition comes in March she says she plans to “dance like a [DEA] dancer.”

Both my daughter and I loved the sparkle and spotlights of our South Padre Island weekend adventure. It was a super fun baby step into the world of competitive dance.

A few of the represented RGV Dance Studios we noticed:

Dance Centre of Edinburg

Allegro Ballet
If your son or daughter is a competitive dancer, do you have any tips to share for newbies like us? Were you at SPI Convention Centre a few weekends ago, too? Did your son or daughter place? Comment below and tell us about your experience!


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