15 April 2024

Eleven Illawarra dancers are about to step onto the world stage

| Dione David
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Eleven dancers from The Dance Affinity and their coaches will fly to the US later this month to compete in an international dance and cheer competition. Photo: The Dance Affinity.

Illawarra spirit will take the international spotlight when a Wollongong dance troupe travels to the US for The Dance Worlds Championships later this month.

Eleven dancers from The Dance Affinity aged between 13 and 16 years will represent at the prestigious international event, where 9000 cheer and 3500 dance athletes will compete for world titles at Disney World in Orlando from Friday 26 to Monday 29 April.

Competition is fierce, with athletes from the hit Netflix series Cheer – a show that shone a light on the athleticism and skill of athletes performing at this level – competing in their local teams.

Teams qualify for the global event at their national championships. This year, three of The Dance Affinity’s routines were selected at the Australian championships to qualify for the global competitions: two in the International All-Star Federation of Cheer and Dance (IASF) Dance Worlds Championships and the other in The Varsity Dance Summit (an event held immediately after for younger dancers).

The Dance Affinity is the only studio in the Illawarra to be competing at both international events.

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Coaches Teagan Huntsdale and Kelly Buggs will travel with the students to train in New York ahead of flying to Florida for the competition.

“It’s incredibly exciting to qualify for this event for the second time and our dancers are so excited to represent the Illawarra on the global stage,” Teagan says.

“The trip means they have the opportunity to see the world doing something they love, test themselves against the world’s best and make lifelong friendships and memories with each other.”

The Dance Affinity entries for The Dance Worlds are a high-energy jazz routine performed to Midnight Edge and a fierce and intense jazz/contemporary performance to Welcome to the Jungle.

The company slows things down for The Varsity Dance Summit with a more lyrical contemporary ballet routine performed to the song You Say.

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Though the school is representing in the dance portion of the competitions rather than cheerleading this year, Teagan says cheer has been growing in popularity in Australia as awareness of the “true nature” of the sport grows.

“It’s obviously huge in America. Australia isn’t there yet, but it’s growing. I know our program has exploded over the last few years,” she says

“Shows like the Netflix series Cheer have brought to light cheer as a sport and I think a lot of people are coming to realise it’s more athletic than they previously thought.

“In the past, cheerleading evoked that ‘jazz with pompoms’ vibe we traditionally saw at football games but it’s actually a very intense team sport. It requires acrobatics, athleticism, strength, precision, flexibility, rhythm and boundless energy.”

Those looking to support the Illawarra team in the US can donate online.

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