Dance academy

Westbrook Dance Academy shines as national champion at Starpower

By Chris Negrini/ • 07/19/2021 04:14 AM EST • Last Updated 07/19/2021 12:33 PM

The Westbrook Dance Academy (WDA) recently competed in the Starpower Talent Nationals at Mohegan Sun, and several teams returned as National Champions thanks to outstanding performances by Academy artists. The contest brought together 44 studios and more than 1,700 entries across all divisions. The WDA’s competition teams showed up to compete with 12 total dances placing in the top 10 in their respective categories, and the WDA was one of eight studios to qualify for the Star Battle.

WDA owner and instructor Julie Reed-Russo has seen her artists soar this year. Starpower was one of the first major competitions for WDA since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it seemed close to a return to normal.

“We started doing all of our classes on Zoom until Memorial Day. Our entire competitive season was canceled last year,” Reed-Russo said. “Nationals this year was pretty much back to normal. It was still safe with three separate rooms, so everyone at Mohegan was more spread out. It helped people feel safe, but still there. and feel normal. These kids have been through a lot. . To have the audience cheering and clapping for you is an amazing feeling for them.”

One of Starpower’s most successful teams for WDA was the senior competition team. The seniors earned 5 stars for each of their three routines and placed second, fifth and sixth in the 15-19 breakout division. The Senior Musical Theater Routine

Beetlejuice placed second, and it was one of eight dances to qualify for the 12+ Small Group Star Battle. Seniors’ lyrical performance Land of Confusion took fifth place and their open routine All The Rowboats came in sixth place. Members of the senior competition team include Mara Kelley and Megan Murphy from Old Saybrook, Kaylene Koelle and Gabriella Navarra from Clinton, Brooke Dellarocco from Chester and Sylvia Sonenstein from Madison. Reed-Russo was proud of the seniors’ performances, and their results marked a milestone for WDA.

“We’ve never had all the dances in the top 6 before. This is the first time it’s happened with a team. Overall, as a team, they work very well together. They love each other so much and spend a lot of time together,” Reed-Russo said. “It’s a really good mix, and they really support each other, whether it’s dancing, school or whatever.”

Dellarocco scored 5 stars and won the National Championship in the 12+ Vocal Division with his rendition of

It roars. Dellarocco also placed third in the 15-19 solo titles division with a 5-star performance of her jazz solo I’m a Woman. Dellarocco also scored 5 stars and placed eighth in the 15-19 Solo Division with her lyrical solo Can You Hear Me. Dellarocco was also awarded the prestigious Discovery Spotlight Fellowship. Reed-Russo remains perpetually impressed with Dellarocco as a multifaceted talent.

“Brooke sings, dances and acts. She was chosen for this scholarship because she’s that kind of triple threat,” Reed-Russo said. “She’s definitely a team player. She knows where she needs to step in to get things done, whether it’s in a group, solo, or helping another team. She enjoys watching other dancers at competitions. She’s looking for even other dancers on social media. It helps him in his learning process, and it also helps him with the other students.”

Sonenstein also had a strong individual performance. She scored 4 ¾ stars for second place in the Vocal 12+ Division with her performance of

Don’t Rain on My Parade and 4 ¾ stars for his solo musical Life with Harold. Reed-Russo feels lucky to have such versatile performers in her studio like Sonenstein and Dellarocco.

“Sylvia is another triple threat. She loves to sing, dance and act. Her mother is an actress and her brother is a musician and actor. She brings a lot to the table,” Reed-Russo said. “She’s so confident and the room lights up when she’s on stage. She’s a hard worker and always tries to be a better dancer than she was the week before.”

Kelley placed second in the 15-19 solo title split and fourth in the 15-19 solo split scoring 5 stars with her tap solo

The farewell song. Reed-Russo was happy to see Kelley put her heart into her performances after a lost season last year.

“Mara graduated in 2020 and she stayed with her team this year because we couldn’t do much last year due to COVID. She was always a supportive team player. other classes. She’s also very smart and talented,” Reed- Russo said. “She even choreographed the musicals in high school, but they couldn’t perform them due to COVID-related reasons. I know that would have been fantastic because that’s who she is.”

Koelle earned 5 stars with her musical theater solo

I’m depressed. Reed-Russo appreciated everything Koelle brings to the team on and off the pitch.

“Kaylene is a very smart young lady. She’s very talented and has done a great job with a lot of the crazy costumes I’ve given her over the years. She really goes for it and she’s not afraid to be silly on stage because she knows she brings the routine to life,” Reed-Russo said. “She does a great job with musical theater style dancing. She is dedicated. I will really miss her next year. She’s very funny and can always brighten up the room with a laugh.”

Murphy scored 4 ¾ stars with his musical theater solo

Party life. Reed-Russo enjoys seeing Murphy succeed because she’s an easy person to support.

“Megan is a very sweet young woman. She’s also very intelligent. She brings a lot through her facial expressions and her movements. She uses her emotions very well,” Reed-Russo said. “She’s one of the nicest kids I’ve ever met. She never says anything bad to anyone. She works very hard to get better. She’s very driven.”

Navarra got 4 ¾ stars with his musical theater solo

Little Me. Navarra is the youngest member of the senior squad and Reed-Russo is excited to see what her future holds.

“Gabriella is the youngest on the team. I’ve had her since she was 2. She was a bit of a spitfire early on. She’s got tons of talent and is sassy on stage. She’s grown into a very consistent overall dancer,” Reed-Russo said. “She can do anything. It lights up the scene, and you can’t teach it. It should come naturally. She has always received positive feedback from the judges.”

Lyrical Dance Teen Competition Team

People Help The People earned 5 stars, finished fifth in the 12-14 breakout division and also received a special judges award. Team Mad Hatter’s open dance and Crash Test Dummies tap dance performance scored 4 ¾ stars each. The teen competition team includes Isabella Johnson and Olivia Hartmann from Clinton, Tess Santarsiero and Jaidyn Cote from Old Saybrook and Gabrielle Walker from Westbrook. Walker earned 4 ¾ stars with his musical theater solo Le Jazz Hot. Reed-Russo has always been impressed with the Teen Team’s ability to work together.

“Their teamwork is amazing. They help each other right before performances. They’ve really worked hard to improve in everything this year,” Reed-Russo said. “When one of their dances was in the top 5, the look on their faces was one of my favorite moments of the week. They just kept staring at each other, not believing it.”

Junior team scored 4 ¾
stars with their jazz routine

Hocus Pocus, as well as their Sugar Rush tap dance performance. The junior team consists of Kylee Pascale from Old Saybrook, Mia Stowik and Sophie Furcolo from Westbrook, and Briella Dean from East Haddam.

Pascale obtained 4 ¾ stars with her musical theater solo

I get good for being bad, while Briella Dean scored 4 and a half stars with her Cooties jazz routine. Stowik scored 4.5 stars with her Amazing Mazie open routine, and Furcolo scored 4.5 stars for her Mamma Mia open routine. Reed-Russo thought the Juniors performed well on stage, especially against fierce competition.

“They performed really well. They’ve worked so hard this year to improve, and those dances were the best all year,” Reed-Russo said. “Their age category is always the most important. It was even very difficult to get into the top 10, and their scores were really good. They did a great job.”

The Futures competition team scored 4 ¾ stars and finished 10th with their jazz routine

Sugar and spice. The Futures team includes Georgia Dean from East Haddam, Elijah Bragg from Madison, Olivia Amenta from Westbrook and Kylie Magee from Guilford.

The mini-competition team placed third in the 9-11 Novice Breakout Division with their open routine

Toy Story and fourth with her Mary Poppins tap dance routine. Toy Story also received a special award from the judges. Members of the mini team include Clinton’s Bridget Johnson and Aubrey Meyer, Madison’s Audrey Bragg, Guilford’s Delaney Keefe, and Old Saybrook’s Delilah Calle. Bragg scored 4 ¾ stars with his open solo, Queen of Mean.

Ultimately, Reed-Russo just feels grateful that she got to see all of her performers get to this point. The past year has been difficult for his studio and its members, and seeing his children shine on stage has lifted his spirits.

“It’s moving. Our industry took a really big hit last year, and dancing might not seem essential to some people, but it’s essential for these kids. It helps in school, in public speaking , and for some kids it’s like therapy,” Reed-Russo said. “I’m just glad we’re open and moving on. We didn’t give up.”