The young women of the Shooting Stars Dance Centre have made the community proud after a series of wins during a recent dance competition in which none of the participants took home less than second place.
Rayna D’Amico, who has lived in town her entire life and graduated from Johnston High School in 2007, has been the Shooting Stars Dance Centre co-owner for the last two years. Her mother, Pat D’Amico, who also serves as co-owner, has been teaching dance in Johnston for over 30 years. It was Rayna’s dream to own a studio of her own in town.
Recently, their studio moved from their old location on Killingly Street to Dyerville Street in order to accommodate the more than 100 dance students who participate at the center. They’ve been preparing since last year for the Take Center Stage Dance Challenge (TCSDC) regionals. The first competition of the series was held Feb. 12, the second on April 8, and the national competition was held July 22 in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
“I was so impressed and blown away at their performances. Most of these girls have never danced before, ever. This was their first time. They got on stage and just kept taking awards away,” said Rayna. “I don’t care about the awards, I always tell my girls one thing, just go on stage and have fun.”
“I was totally impressed with these girls,” added Pat. “My biggest thing is how my daughter trained these children in such a short time to go out there and win these titles. I’m just so impressed with everyone.”
D’Amico said that her programs offer new experiences and amazing dances for girls to participate in. While routines were intimidating at first, the girls have persevered and found an inner strength that has allowed them to rise to the top.
The center accommodates students from ages two to adult, and during the TCSDC participants ranged from ages five to 16, with participants living throughout the state. To participate in TCSDC, the girls had to train with the center for a year and uphold certain training and lifestyle standards.
“We’re not a competition studio. When we first started this, we did it as recreational because we loved teaching. We keep everything very age appropriate,” said D’Amico. “We don’t do any ‘twerking’ and these girls know how to be professional. There’s a dress code and no inappropriate music allowed. We’re very family-oriented.”
The TCSDC saw an audience of thousands during the four-day competition.
“They handled the pressure well. I think because we keep it so family-oriented and so connected around the children. I look at these girls as my little sisters, and we all have a special relationship,” said Rayna. “We know their weaknesses and we know their strengths, and how to handle them appropriately.”