Written by Chris Boyle, firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 05 July 2013 00:00
For many, the art of dance is a profound way to express the inexpressible. This weekend, the hard-working students of Massapequa’s Body Language Dance and Theatre Arts Studio are using the inexpressible to win a nationwide competition for best dance studio.
Wendy DeGaetano, owner of Body Language, has been prepping her students for a prestigious dance competition—the Access Broadway National Talent Performing Arts Competition—July 2-6 in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
“There are a million competition companies out there,” she said. “We only go to the ones that are nationally rated with really good reputations, have been around for a really long time, and aren’t exploiting the children.”
Drawing hundreds of dancers nationwide and representing over 20 schools, Access Broadway is considered one of the top competitions in its field, DeGaetano said.
“We’ve competed in this before, and we usually do very well...but this year we’re hoping to win a national championship,” she said. “We’ve won a lot of prizes there, placed first in many categories, won audience favorite...but this year we hope to get the national cup for best studio.”
Samantha O’Donnell, a 14-year-old from Massapequa, has been dancing since she was two years old, and is putting in maximum effort this year in hopes of capturing the Access Broadway national title for her and her classmates.
“I’ve been training really hard,” she said. “I’m here three to four days a week for two to four hours each time, and I also have a dance room in my garage and I practice both my solo and group dances in there constantly. I think our chances of winning are really good, since we’ve all been working so hard.”
Sixteen-year-old Gianna Raimi, also from Massapequa, has dancing in her blood. She started training 14 years ago and is also competing this weekend.
“I work really hard at the studio...I try to never miss a session,” she said. “And I also attend the Long Island High School for the Arts, where I train as well. I also got accepted into the Joffrey Ballet School last year for the summer program, so that has helped a lot with my training and technique for the competition as well.”
DeGaetano opened her school back in 1986 in Farmingdale. After several location changes in the name of expansion, she finally settled, seemingly for good, at her current location at 5352 Merrick Road.
“I’ve been dancing since I’ve been three years old,” she said. “Dance is my life and my passion. The studio is a sanctuary to me...when you’re a dancer and you’re dancing, you’re in this magical place and the world kind of melts away.”
The school offers training in a variety of popular dance styles, including ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, hip-hop, point, and zumba. The school is all-inclusive for those—boys, girls, adults—who wish to learn the art of dance.
Body Language also boasts a company of semi-professional dancers who attend various performances and competitions throughout both Long Island and beyond; the company performs a holiday favorite, The Nutcracker, every year, normally at Berner Middle School or Massapequa High School.
“This year we’re trying to expand the Nutcracker and bring it to more towns in Nassau County,” she said. “We’ll actually be starting rehearsals soon...while everyone else is at the beach, we’ll be listening to Christmas music!”
While the studio qualifies for the Access Broadway nationals every year, they only attend every other year due to the fundraising efforts required to meet entry fees, traveling and lodging expenses, and more, DeGaetano said.
“They’re in Hershey for seven days,” she said. “Plus, costumes are a huge expense...some of these kids have thousand-dollar costumes.”
To raise the money, the school and students hold a variety of fundraising activities, including car washes, bake sales, raffles for gift baskets, lotteries, and so on. But, win or lose, DeGaetano said that it’s the experience that competitions such as Access Broadway offer to learn new things.
“Access Broadway is really a week-long celebration of dance,” she said. “They get to be exposed to other styles, techniques, and performers. A lot of these girls come to me to learn dance when they’re two years old and many of them stay through college, and it’s a great thing that they can come and see other people and influences.”