Underneath an ordinary office building at the edge of Severna Park lies one of its best kept secrets. But as the accolades keep streaming in, it’s getting harder to hide the stars that are pouring out. What is the name of this little gem? The Dance Academy.
With just over 100 students, it seems unlikely that a studio of this size can turn out many high-caliber dancers. But it does.
Just this year, 14 of its students were invited to compete at the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. YAGP is the premier classical and contemporary ballet competition in the world, bringing the international stage to this region and taking children to places they’ve never imagined they could go. Providing this opportunity to talented young dancers has always been the goal for Noelle Reese, director of The Dance Academy.
“This experience is a dream come true for me, too,” Reese said. “When I first started teaching 28 years ago, I knew that I wanted to build a dance program that was strong enough to compete on the world stage. Finally getting here, however, has exceeded my every expectation. These dancers and their families have become my family and I am so proud of the dedication, perseverance and commitment they have to their dreams.”
That dedication, perseverance and commitment has paid off. The Dance Academy students shared the stage with some of the best dancers in the region from some of the largest and most well-respected studios, and they held their own.
In the pre-competitive division, 10-year-old Chloe Fisher placed second overall and 9-year-old Savannah Beall placed in the top 12.
In the junior division, Gabrielle Miller, 13, placed second in the junior division and was invited to the YAGP finals in New York City. Sophia Volkov, 13, placed in the top 12, and 12-year-old Luke Gautreau, the only male dancer representing The Dance Academy, placed in the top 24.
In the senior division, Hailey Stinchcomb, 16, placed in the top 12 and was invited to the scholarship classes at the New York City finals.
In the ensemble division, the group’s classical ballet piece, “Ictus,” choreographed by ballet instructor Margaret Russell, placed in the top 12 and featured nine of the participating solo dancers.
“Because we are a small studio, our dancers sometimes think it impossible to move into a professional dance career,” Reese said. “YAGP gives them a chance to measure their progress against some of the finest dancers in the world and confirms that they do, in fact, have what it takes to rise to that level.”
In addition to weekly classes in classical ballet, contemporary, jazz, tap, and acrobatic dance, The Dance Academy provides year-round enrichment and performance activities for students. The program offers community outreach performances, national competitions, affiliation with a pre-professional company and, of course, participation in Youth America Grand Prix.