- Associated Press - Monday, August 14, 2017

NEWINGTON, Conn. (AP) - Newington Dance Center is a different kind of dance studio.

Not only do members support each other and treat other dancers with respect and kindness, they also have the opportunity to compose their own original dance numbers. This open concept is in stark contrast to many other studios, which offer no room for self-expression and boast a grueling sense of competitiveness that crosses an often vindictive line.

Not here.

Founder Jane Levin and her “Newington Elites” just returned from a competition in Wildwood, New Jersey, where their style and gracious presence astounded judges and dancers from across the nation.

“One thing we really stress is being supportive of other teams,” Levin said. “Be happy when others win. Look at dancers who are really good and don’t think of them as your competitors, but as your teachers.”

Self-confidence and teamwork are core principles of Newington Dance Center, which has a strict anti-bullying policy.

“Whether or not our dancers become professionals someday these values are important to daily life,” Levin explained. “We only have about 35 students; it’s a very personalized environment. Everybody is friendly with everybody else.”

Four of the center’s dancers competed in the recent championship: Tula Johnson, 14, Lexi Robinson, 12, Lauren Hartman, 14, and Margie, 8. They performed “The Tiara,” which won the Drama and Theatricality Special Achievement Award and an award for Outstanding Choreography.

Levin describes the act as a comedy, and her students worked on crafting the choreography together as a team. Afterward they were invited to perform it on the boardwalk. In between dancing the group enjoyed the beach, visited the aquarium, dined out, and took classes offered at the competition.

Tula won several awards for her solo act, “No Way Out,” which was based on a kidnapping story she dreamed up.

“Your performance was amazing, your technique was like a ballerina, flexibility like Cirque de Soleil and your performance was like my favorite band,” judge Jesse Katem told her afterward.

Tula has been dancing since she was 6 years old. It’s become a hobby and a sort of therapy for the teen.

“Whenever I’m sad it brings me joy and happiness,” she pointed out.

She and Lauren also had the opportunity to dance in a small group showcase led by renowned choreographer Lane Napper.

Dancer Tatiana Johnson had her shining moment back in the spring, when she performed her solo act, “The Final Solution.”

“I love the freedom of dancing,” Tatiana said. “You can do anything you want. It means more to the person doing it than the people watching.”


Online: https://bit.ly/2wJNeLE


For more information: New Britain Herald, www.newbritainherald.com

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