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Monday, September 15, 2014, 4:34 a.m.
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On ‘tap’ of the world

Cabot dancers tap their way to national title

By Angela Spencer

This article was published August 3, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

Rusty Hubbard/Three Rivers Edition Cabot Dance Academy students Jayden Cloinger, from left, Jersey Grace Petross, Skye Epley, Brooke Davis and Ashley Drees stand on the tips of their toes but can’t equal the height of the massive trophy they won for tap dancing at the 2014 Talent on Parade National Finals held in Overland Park, Kan., July 9-13.

With a routine set to the song “Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now,” five Cabot dancers tapped their way to victory, winning a national title, along with a trophy taller than any of them.

Seventy-six dancers from the Cabot Dance Academy competed in the 2014 Talent on Parade National Competition early this month in Overland Park, Kansas. The dancers came away with several awards, including one group of five girls who earned the title 8 and Under National Small Group Overall Champions.

This was the first year for Jayden Cloinger, Brooke Davis, Ashley Drees, Skye Epley and Jersey Grace Petross to work together as a group, and the girls started working on their routine to “Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now” last August.

Choreographer Bailey Jo Rhodes said the style of the routine was based in traditional tap with an influence of “hoofing.” Hoofing is a style of tap where dancers dance into the floor, emphasizing stomps and stamps as opposed to a light, airy dance.

Skye said sometimes it is not easy to learn a new routine, especially in the beginning when learning to perform specific steps and keeping up with changes.

“Remembering it is the hardest part,” she said.

Luckily, the girls had each other. They are friends, and being able to work together to learn and remember the routine strengthened their friendship and gave them a chance to learn about teamwork.

“We learned how to be a team,” Brooke said. “We got to help each other when we were practicing.”

The group earned a spot to compete in the finals on July 12, and they performed the best they could. When it came time for the winner to be announced, the girls already knew they were among the top six acts in their category.

“We were squeezing each other’s hands,” Jersey Grace said of the moments leading up to the announcement.

The final announcement came, and when “Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now” started playing, the girls knew they had won. Their parents were at the front of the stage celebrating, cannons shot off confetti, and the girls received a giant trophy and a check for $1,000.

“I was thinking that I was so happy and thinking of all the hard work we had done,” Jayden said.

The trophy is an exciting award, and winning was a big accomplishment, but the girls had already gained a lot from their experiences dancing together.

“It’s not just about getting awards,” Skye said. “It’s about making friends and improving yourself.”

Additionally, Rhodes was named top choreographer for groups age 12 and younger. Rhodes has been dancing for 14 years and has worked as a choreographer for three years.

“It was an exciting experience,” she said of the competition. “These kiddos made it all possible.”

Rhodes said she is already forming ideas for next year’s competition. Rehearsals will start in a few weeks, and the process will start all over.

The Cabot Dance Academy started as Lisa’s Dance Studio 19 years ago. Owner Lisa Cotroneo took on a business partner eight years ago, which is when the studio became the Cabot Dance Academy.

Now, Cotroneo and Tonya Drees run the studio, and they both said they are proud of all the dancers who competed in the national competition this year.

The Cabot Dance Academy took 76 competitive dancers to the event and came away with several awards, in addition to the overall champions for 8 and Younger Small Group.

Other recognitions earned by Cabot Dance Academy dancers at the 2014 Talent on Parade National Competition include first place in 7-8 Competitive Small Groups, 8 and Younger Competitive Large Groups, 15-19 Novice Solos and 8 and Younger Photogenic.

Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or aspencer@arkansasonline.com.

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