Song selection can be an important part of competitive dance.
It's probably the most important element for Tillsonburg Danscene's Rebecca Moore, 14, who takes great care in selecting her solo music.
At Danscene's first competition of the 2014 season, Kick it Up in Niagara Falls, March 28-30, Moore competed in a hip hop solo, lyrical solo, acro group and duet, as well as lyrical, hip hop, jazz and musical theatre groups.
"My favourite dances are my solos, because it's when I'm all by myself and I get to express who I am , and each song is related to me. Something from the past year, the past couple of months, it's something I can relate to.
"I listen to the lyrics and I say, 'does this song fit me?' Is it right for me? And when I find the right song, I think maybe that song was meant for me."
Moore's best marks traditionally come in hip hop, but she feels she can still improve at each competition.
"At Kick it Up... Miss Angie (Farkas) told me I was hitting it, and the video we looked at showed me that I was, so I'm proud of that. I don't really have a (solo) favorite, I like all of them because each dance I can improve on them.
"Our groups are coming along," Moore summed up. "When we clean and we actually work together, it's going to look so good."
Abi Robillard, 13, competed in Danscene's hip hop group, Paris Night.
"I think it's really nice to portray a different character other than ourselves," said Robillard. "We get to be rich girls in Paris, so that's really fun to act that out."
It's a 'sassy' number, she said.
"It makes the facials a lot more fun to do."
The Kick it Up performance, she said, was the best they've done so far.
"We really became a team, and we worked together."
Team bonding begins backstage, she said.
"We're all together and we get to practice in the back room of the theatre. I think we bonded together – we're a dance family and I love that."
Robillard said the hip hop group will be focusing on synchronization and energy at their next competition.
Lea Melchoir, 13, competed in Danscene's hip hop and jazz groups.
"It went good," said Melchoir, recalling a second-place high-gold hip hop finish for Paris Night, a six-dancer group.
"We learned we have to work together," she said, noting the timing can improve going into their next competition, Flashdance, in Brantford this weekend.
Two weeks was ample time to prepare, she said.
"It's not hard."
Riley Cuddy, 12, did her first jazz solo at Kick it Up. She also danced with Paris Night hip hop group, and competed in jazz duet and jazz, hip hop and lyrical groups.
"I really like jazz because it's got a lot of style, and it's more of an upbeat kind of music – and I like that."
Cuddy won her jazz solo division (platinum award), received a special award in her duet (high gold) and platinum with the jazz group.
The timing can be improved in some places, said Cuddy, but she felt their energy was able to cover it up.
"There was a lot of energy, so that kind of made up for it," she noted. "I think everybody was really excited to do it.
"I think our hip hop is really different this year. It's kind of mature, I guess, because it's really different – it was kind of slower, softer, but still it's really hip hop. It's kind of a romantic-like deal, then it's really hard at some parts. It was a really cool mixture and it was really new."
Kelsey Sanderson competed in nine dances including ballet, tap and lyrical solos, an duet with her younger sister Brooke, acro duet with Rebecca Moore, and jazz, acro, lyrical and tap groups.
"It's my first year doing a duet together with my sister," said Sanderson.
There's a level of comfort, she said, and enjoys being on stage with her sister, but it also brings its own set of challenges.
"I find myself correcting her a lot..." Sanderson smiled.
But she's not worried about possible sibling conflicts.
"No, because I know it will work out."
Sanderson, who received a judges' choice scholarship at Kick It Up, is looking forward to Flashdance, their second of five competitions.
"Looking at the tapes, I can see a lot of things that I can improve in... so I hope I do. I have goals to meet."
Mackenzie Simmonds, 12, competed in a tap solo and tap group.
"I like doing the tap solo because I can be myself on stage," said Simmonds, who received a platinum award for Weightless.
"It's about a girl who's trapped in a world of fakes and she's telling everyone to 'just be yourself.'"
In the tap group, she said, they were "way too fast" for the music.
"We were really off time. We just have to slow it down."
Tia Antoine, 12, competed in hip hop, both solo and group, winning a Best in Hip Hop Style trophy.
"For facial expression and the way I did my movements... I don't know. I was actually surprised because I wasn't there for the whole thing, and by the time I got home my mom said I had won."
Her solo is still her favorite "because I can just be myself."
"Our group did good – we got high gold," she said, adding they are working on timing and levels.
Madison Squires, 14, competing in an acro duet with Ginny Hanson, won a platinum award.
"This is my first year competing," said Squires. "I was nervous at first, but once I got on stage I felt better. When I got on stage, all the judges disappeared and I just danced."
There are areas to work on, she said, including straighter legs, and timing, "working together and going at the same time."
Squires has been dancing since she was two years old, and decided to compete in 2014.
"It (competing) was kind of out of the box, and I'm not one usually one to go out of the box. I'm kind of... nervous about everything. So I thought I'd try it and see how I did."
Carly Donker, 13, competed in jazz, acro, tap and lyrical groups, with solos in acro and lyrical.
"We did a lot better than we did in class, but we still have a lot to fix," said Donker. "We could make our movements 'together' more. In jazz, we have to make it sharper. In lyrical, a little softer. So it depends on the dance form.
"Our acro got the highest mark and I felt that we did really good."
Donker is most looking forward to her lyrical solo this weekend because "I have a lot to fix."
The 2013-14 dance season marks a comeback year for 14-year-old Olivia Kyriakopoulos.
"I stopped dancing when I was eight or nine, I think. It's been quite a while, like half my life.
"I felt like because I spent so many hours at the studio, and I have such a big family... my family was always doing stuff and I felt like I was always left out. It was like no one knew they had an Olivia in the family because I was always in the studio all the time, and when you're a kid, that's very hard."
A talented multi-sport athlete, her interest in dance never wavered over the years.
"I stopped doing it, but I think there's nothing that can stop you from doing what you love. I always found myself going home, turning on the music and just dancing all over the house. It was like a sign," she smiled.
"I'm doing a lot less because I also do other sports, I have other commitments. And because I'm closer with all the girls now, I think that we bond easier."
Kyriakopoulos' first competition brought it all back.
"When I first went on stage... I don't know, it kind of felt like I couldn't get the smile off my face. I didn't even have to try to smile."
KICK IT UP
March 28-30, Niagara Falls
Callie Berlet: Point (high gold), Lyrical (ultimate platinum)
Mackenzie Simmonds: Tap (platinum)
Lea Melchoir: Hip Hop (high gold)
Rebecca Moore: Lyrical (platinum); Hip Hop (platinum)
Emily Christiaens: Jazz (platinum)
Jillian Donck: Acro (platinum)
Elyse Pelland: Acro (ultimate platinum)
Mackenzie Squires: Lyrical (high gold)
Georgia VanLouwe: Tap (high gold)
Riley Cuddy: Jazz (platinum)
Brooke Sanderson: Tap (platinum)
Andrea Ort: Acro (platinum)
Carly Donker: Lyrical (high gold); Acro (platinum)
Tia Antoine: Hip Hop (platinum)
Rachel Hanson: Musical Theatre (platinum)
Kelsey Sanderson: Lyrical (platinum); Ballet (high gold); Tap (platinum)
Brooklyn Kints: Acro (ultimate platinum)
Hope Dekeyser: Acro (platinum)
Taneesha Larochelle: Tap (platinum)
Hope Dekeyser and Jillian Donck - ulitmate platinum
Ginny Hanson and Madison Squires - platinum
Brooke Sanderson and Jillian McPherson: Duet – platinum
Callie Berlet and Hope Dekeyser - platinum
Riley Cuddy and Georgia VanLouwe – high gold
Brooke Sanderson and Kelsey Sanderson – platinum
Rebecca Moore and Kelsey Sanderson - platinum
Callie Berlet and Elyse Pelland - platinum
Lying to the Mirror (platinum); Why We Like Spelling (platinum); Good vs Evil (ultimate platinum); The Audition (platinum); Start The Party (high gold); This Time (high gold); Everybody Eats (high gold); Critical (platinum); You Never Are (platinum); Paris Night (high gold); Wake Me Up (high gold); Good Enough (platinum); A Little Party (high gold)
Callie Berlet (ballet); Hope Dekeyser and Jillian Donck; Emily Christaens; Riley Cuddy; Tia Antoine; Rebecca Moore and Kelsey Sanderson
Why We Like Spelling (1st overall musical theatre); Tia Antoine (overall style – hip hop and scholarship); Good vs Evil (best choreography); Brooke Sanderson (3rd overall junior solo highest mark); Kelsey Sanderson (judges' choice scholarship)