Dancing In Disney: Royal Dancers Make Their Mark in the Magic Kingdom
Twenty-three dancers from the area got their chance to shine on Main Street, U.S.A.
“I’m walking right down the middle of Main Street USA,
I know it’s no illusion, it’s a dream that’s here to stay.”
From Right Down The Middle of Main Street USA by Stu Nunnery
For 23 dancers from Royal Dance Academy in National Park, that dream became a reality last Wednesday. And they didn’t just walk up the middle of Disney World’s most famous thoroughfare. They danced along to Michael Jackson’s “Ease on Down the Road,” clapping their hands, tapping their red sequined shoes and smiling from ear to ear.
The dancers from Royal, ranging in age from 7 to 20, had been selected to participate in the Dance Around the World program. More than 800 dancers from across the US and Canada danced in the parade, having learned the steps independently at their own dance studios and then putting the group together in a single evening rehearsal the night before Wednesday’s parade.
“It was extremely well-organized. We got the DVD early, gave a copy to each dancer and practiced every Sunday," said Theresa Lapetina-Pietrowski, director of Royal Dance Academy.
Lapetina-Pietrowski worked with her “Disney dancers” for months, bringing them in for weekend sessions to perfect the Disney steps. The sessions served her students well during the official audition on Tuesday evening.
Officials for the program reviewed the dancers during a rehearsal session, and tapped the shoulder of any dancer who didn’t meet Disney standards. These dancers were given an opportunity to have additional practice sessions before the parade.
Sounds a bit intimidating, but no worries.
“I felt confident about the auditon,” said Samantha Bicking, 11, a West Deptford Middle School student who dances on Royal’s Imagination line. “I knew the dance and I was smiling, so I didn’t think about being tapped out. I trusted Miss Theresa that we were ready.”
Ten-year-old Matthew Mason, another middle school student who dances with both the Sparkler and Excaliber lines, agreed.
“I had no worries about being tapped on the shoulder,” he said. “Miss Theresa made sure we knew the dance.”
And that she did—all of the 23 dancers from Royal made it through the audition process effortlessly.
Of course, there was another threat to the parade dancers, in the form of Hurricane Debbie. Though the two previous days were dark and rainy, the storm left the area early Wednesday, and the skies were clear and sunny by the time Royal left Frontierland toward Main Street. Everyone agreed that the weather was perfect for making memories.
Bicking's mother, Lisa, was overwhelmed by the experience.
“It was amazing watching Sam dancing down Main Street,” she said. “It was Disney, which is big. It’s such a big honor to get the invite, especially to be in the parade.”
Christopher Pietrowski, 7, the director’s son and a member of three dance lines, was impressed by the dance down Main Street—but particularly because he knew some VIPs were taking the same route.
“He wanted to meet Daisy Duck, and knew she was coming up behind the dancers,” said Lapetina-Pietrowski.
Like most good memories, the parade itself actually went by way too quickly.
“The parade kept moving so you didn’t have time to dwell in the moment,” said Kristi Koger of West Deptford, whose son TJ, 8, has been dancing with Royal for six years.
But the following two days allowed Koger and the other proud dance moms, dads, family and friends a good opportunity to see their favorite dancers perform Disney style. On Thursday they performed a nine-minute routine at the Premiere Theatre in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, then ended the week with a 20-minute performance at Downtown Disney.
“The following day (after the parade) at Hollywood Studios I was honored to get a back stage view,” Koger said. “Seeing each and every one of our dancers smiling, focused and with nerves of steel, I was awestruck at how effortless they made it look.”
That performance—an Arabian production number choreographed by Lapetina-Pietrowski which ended with a joyous routine to “Friend Like Me” from Alladin—caught the eye of Dance the World officials, too.
“When we finished and getting water backstage, one of the managers from Dance the World stopped us and told the kids they loved their performance,” said Lapetina-Pietrowski. “They took some pictures of our production number, and they announced it will be used on the cover of their 2013 pamphlet.”
"We expect a thank you or good job or even some criticism, but they usually don’t single you out for praise. I was shocked and so proud,” she added.
Her son Christopher agreed this was a trip to remember.
“When we were leaving the park on the last day, he snuggled up to me and said, 'Mommy, I will always remember 2012.'
"It’s the memories. That’s what I want for him, and for all these kids,” Lapetina-Pietrowski said.