Dancing in front of Debbie Allen was tough, but Ava Moreno won her over.
The legendary performer was “very intense” said the 11-year-old, who was a bundle of nerves during the last-minute audition.
She and seven other members of DanceSations School of Dance were in New York City for workshops when the opportunity arose last month.
The entire group was accepted. They’ll head to Atlanta, Georgia in June for intensive classes at Debbie Allen Dance Academy.
“When I saw an advertisement for the auditions pop up on social media I decided we’d take part,” said DanceSations owner Holly Pacheco. “I’m so proud that all eight of our students got in.”
An award-winning choreographer who rose to prominence through the 1980 film Fame, Ms Allen today counts executive producer of the medical drama series Grey’s Anatomy among the many roles that keep her busy.
Ava was surprised she had found time for the audition. More than 70 dancers, ages 8 through 20, turned out.
“I thought she’d be off doing things with other famous people,” she said. “It was already intimidating with [so many dancers] trying out.
“There was so much talent in the room. Then I was really scared when I saw Debbie Allen would be watching us.”
Audition hopefuls were asked to perform regular ballet movements, such as tendus and pliés, and taught dance combos in small groups.
“She was very intense in her training,” said Ava, who thought she had performed an attitude turn incorrectly. “She was very precise on what she wanted us to do.
“An attitude turn is when you put the leg to the back,” she explained. “It’s kind of bent, but not completely bent.
“You have to hold it and you put one arm out and have to turn. I just couldn’t get it, and thought I hadn’t gotten in.”
She was thrilled when she found out she was wrong and Ms Allen collectively told the DanceSations students: “Good job.”
“She said she would be excited to see us at the summer intensive in Atlanta,” Ava said.
They got to talk a bit more later, as they rode the elevator down four floors at the end of the audition.
“I thanked her for the class and she said, ‘You’re very welcome’, then rushed out the doors when they opened,” the BHS student said. “She was running to catch a flight to auditions in another city.”
Her hope is that Ms Allen will be her instructor for the two-week programme, but doesn’t know for sure.
Her goal is to improve her technical skill and strength so she’s able to dance on her toes.
“I thought dancing was going to be really easy, but actually it takes a lot of technical training,” said Ava, who has studied at DanceSations since she was 7. “You have to know how to be different characters and you need a lot of stamina to be able to do high-energy dances that last three minutes.”
She spends eight hours a week in taking classes in modern, jazz, ballet and hip-hop.
She is also part of introduction to company, reserved for the school’s best technical dancers.
“I’m pretty committed,” Ava said. “It does mean a sacrifice but I think all the time and effort I put into dance pays off with events like the audition.”
She dreams of becoming a dance teacher and often helps teach the four-year-old to six-year-old group on Saturdays.
“They are just really cute to dance with,” she said. “And it is nice to see how they progress throughout the year to the final production in May.”
While in New York, the students also took part in a dance convention, and did a workshop with Lion King cast members at the Alvin Ailey Broadway Dance Centre.
“I was completely overwhelmed to be at Alvin Ailey,” Ava said. “It was nothing like the studios that we have in Bermuda.
“There were three studios on the top floor and more below. There is a big picture of Alvin Ailey when you first walk in the door doing a pose. We all got a picture with it.”