Under the glare of fluorescent lights, the members of Imperial Athletics, one of the many teams invited to the World Dance Competition, enter the ebony dance floor. One dancer, donning the same black outfit as her peers, quickly positions herself in front of the crowd of onlookers. She waves at the awaiting audience before moving her head back and exchanging several comments with her teammates, a smile stretching across her face. With a faint crackle the speakers roar to life and announces the arrival of the team, prompting a dozen cheers from nearby fans.The lights suddenly dim and everything fades into darkness. The dancer, sophomore Eliza Connell, lets out one last breath and then begins to perform for her friends and family.
“I have never been more proud of myself or my team. We have come so far and accomplished so much,” said Connell.
The Imperial Athletics team hard work and strong performances earned an invitation to the World Dance Competition hosted in Disney World. The organizers of the competition provided Imperial Athletics with $5,000 for travelling expenses and purchased rooms for the guests in the Coronado Springs hotel. Between April 26 to 29, 40 countries from around the globe sent their highest ranked hip hop dance team to compete for the world title. Despite the intense competition facing the team, they performed their groundbreaking production and won the title of Large Senior Coed Hip-Hop Group.
“My team and I were undefeated all year, however, we did not know how we would do against such strong competition. It was a huge accomplishment for us to win,” said Connell.
Connell first began dance when she was merely 5 years old and focused primarily on jazz and tap. Upon entering sixth grade, she joined the Schilling Farms Middle School dance team. Their award winning program introduced her to the art of hip hop. Outside of school, she attends hour long practices twice a week and sometimes on the weekends with her coach, Natalie Stavinoha St. Lauvent. Her hard work has earned her a significant amount of respect from the dance community and a number of dedicated supporters. Connell’s friend, sophomore Kayla Eshbaugh, regularly views her performances and strives to encourage her.
“Even though her training is intense, she overcomes her challenges through hard work. She inspires me to do my best,” said Eshbaugh.