PBD prepares to bring two additional teams to National Competition

Emily Wilcox and Sam Ross

The Youth Show and Preteen Premier teams are perfecting two medleys to take to Nationals in March. This is the first time that either team will be traveling to Utah for the event.

YP dancer Mike Melanson shared his excitement. “It’s going to be a fun experience. I am looking forward to experiencing this type of competition.  My favorite medley is the standard medley, ‘The Tributes’, because the standard dances are the most fun to dance.” He said he knows they have a lot of work left to do in the next month, but he sees how far they have come since the beginning of the year. “We have really improved,” he said.
Preteen Premier Coach Beth Dolan is happy about going to Nationals because her elementary-aged dancers are brimming with excitement. “Their excitement will come out in their performance and they will look and do awesome,” she said.
Preteen parents Sarah Thompson and Christine DeWaal laughed when asked about what their expectations are for the trip to Utah. “I don’t know what to expect,” said Christine, “but I’ve got a hotel and a plane ticket so I’m all set.”  Sarah added, “I hope we make it to the BYU Creamery. I’ve been told that’s the place.”
Why take two additional team to Nationals? Why manage 45 additional students in a huge and complex competition that lasts an entire week? Executive Director Heather Longhust had a quick answer, “It gives the more kids the opportunity to have a life changing experience.”


Thomas Leonard & Grace DeFranco

Quest for the Best Competition

Eighty-one students form PBD danced  in individual competitions at Quest for the Best on January 27th. This means that over 50% of the participants were from our studio, a number which does not include members of the formations teams who also performed throughout the day.

While PBD students are not required to enter the competition, syllabus teachers and team coaches have been encouraging the students to do so.  The emphasis on personal competitions is lifting the students to challenge themselves, practice, and improve.  With the large number of competitors battling across multiple rounds and divisions, ribbons of all colors poured out to them. Best friends and teammates had to compete side by side with grace and sportsmanship. “It’s nice to win ribbons, and blue ones especially, but it’s also nice to cheer for your friends,” said one competitor.

Hannah, Micah, and Miriam

  Siblings grow together in dance at PBD

In addition to coaching, five sets of big brothers and sisters danced with their younger sibngs in Mixed Newcomer events. YP dancer Sarah Cook danced with her little brother Jared who is a member of the Preteen Show team. “It was fun to see them bond through dance because there is such a big age difference between them,” said their mom, Michelle Cook.

Siblings Thomas and Suzie Owen, Eve and Isaac Eugenio, Lucas and Helena Leonard, and Cody and Brynn Bennion all earned ribbons together.

Preparing for and competing in Quest for the Best was a family affair for many students at PBD. Older siblings helped coach their younger brothers and sisters in their partnerships. Hannah Mattson’s mom Laura observed Hannah teaching her sister Miriam and dance partner Micah Tate.  “I sat nearby prepared to assist Hannah or mediate sister disputes. Instead, I was able to just sit and watch. Hannah knew her stuff and was entirely capable of teaching on her own. Miriam and her partner were attentive and teachable. I found myself surprised at how much joy I felt watching this scene.”

 Great Food and Music at New Year’s Eve Dance

Rick Gossard’s New Year’s Eve dinner and dance was all about the food and the music.  A buffet was catered by the Crisostomo family. “Clarisse makes wonderful food,” said Susie Esteb, who came to the dance with her husband Eric. “And Rick plays great music. The New Years dance is a chance to put on your glad rags, a chance to dress up.” Susie regularly attends the dances at the Studio and said the New Year’s Dance brings a new crowd. “It’s fun to see people who don’t usually come out!”  Susie particularly enjoyed the alcohol-free night of celebration. “That’s something that is pretty hard to find,” she said.

Youth Premier dancers James Lear and Emily Miles performed a floor show for the crowd at the event. “The audience was energetic and the spirit of celebration was in the air,” said James. Emily liked the fact that there were no wallflowers when general dancing began. “They were all engaged, up and dancing, which was cool to see,” she said.

Andrii Mykhailov choreographs for Youth Premier medley

Andrii Mykailov is a professional ballroom dancer who has traveled across the world competing and performing ballroom dance. He found his way to our little corner of the Northwest and into the rehearsals of our Youth Premier Team as team directors Katie and Brent Mecham choreograph a new standard medley for Nationals.
“Andrii is a strong, traditional choreographer,” said Katie. “He provided our team with solid, technical dancing.” With Andrii’s choreography as a foundation of high quality dancing, Katie and Brent added artistry and style, formations and patterns. “I think we have a great relationship with Andrii,” said Katie. “Our team benefits from his experience and training and he enjoyed the energy of the teenagers. He always had a big smile on his face.”
The dancers on YP appreciated that Andrii challenged them, helped them look more professional, and had a good-natured sense of humor. “He played off his accent in a funny way to make us all comfortable and put us at ease,” said Emily Miles. “He made everyone laugh when he yelled “plank with me!” at the end of a four hour rehearsal.” They were tired, but everyone joined in.

Social and Emotional Learning at PBD

Our studio mission statement doesn’t mention winning trophies. It doesn’t list ways to shape professional ballroom dancers. “Winning” is not one our seven values. Instead, our focus in all teams and syllabus classes is developing character.

With that in mind, our staff works with School’s Out Washington and the Center for Youth Program Quality for training, evaluation, and regularly discussions around the elements of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Simple ideas such as greeting each student by name as they enter the room are thoughtfully discussed at staff meetings, through emails, and messages as coaches try new strategies and report to their peers on their efforts.

PBD encourages coaches to use eye-level communication with young students in every instance except when teaching formation lines. Then a bird’s eye view is required.


Heather Bryant shared her results completing SEL stragagies. She explained  how she greeted every dancer by name as they came in and engaged in a few conversations asking questions, listening, and responding. “I have to say… I think they were all more attentive and focused the entire rehearsal! I’m a believer!”
One focus this month was emotion coaching, specifically acknowledging and validating the emotions of youth, helping them name their emotions and work towards handling difficult emotions. Stars Coach Megan Allen said she sees examples of this every day in Preteen Premier Coach Beth Dolan, “The kids know they can say how they feel and Beth takes the time to listen and also carefully discuss and address their concerns. They know they are in a safe place at team.”

Dayley Dance Company visits PBD for exchange

Sarah Cook with a Daley Dancer

The Dayley Dance Academy from Washougal, Washington came to visit the studio and trade dance expertise with the Youth Premier Team. Katie Mecham taught the visiting students Samba and Waltz and Dayley Instructor Lynelle Nicholson, who is developing a ballroom program at Dayley Dance Academy,  taught PBD elements of modern dance and partnering.

“[The visiting kids] helped us to try new things and to take risks. We got to meet new people and encourage each other in dance,” said Audrey Tribble of PBD.  Nichole Hrouda said, “they helped me with my core and flexibility in my back and they taught us some great lifts.”
“It’s good for the kids to connect with other dancers,” said Katie Mecham. “They can see that’s it’s OK to like dance!”

Dancing Classrooms featured in The News Tribune

PBD’s Dancing Classrooms program was recently featured in an article in the local Tacoma-based Newspaper, The News Tribune.

 Fifth grade teacher Heidi Heistand is quoted saying “Having Dancing Classrooms in the fifth grade is a great way to prepare students for middle school life and the unique challenges that comes with puberty.”
“We moved the class to the fall semester to break the initial awkwardness,” Heistand said. “We learn how to respect each other and our own boundaries. We talk about social issues and body issues. As a teacher, I think it’s amazing and the kids love it.”
Principal Lilian Page supports the class because it helps older students learn how to act in social gatherings, and gives them the confidence to break the ice and meet new people.
Read the full article here.http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/community/gateway/article195196094.html

Alumni reunion brings generations together

Jordan Evans, Chayce & Jessica Baldwin.

Reconnecting is what it is all about for PBD Alumni.  Each holiday break, Alumni get together to share the spirit of PBD and catch up with past dance partners and team members.  This year, the Reunion was held at the Studio, with about forty former PBD dancers attending.

“What is interesting to me is that older dancers and younger dancers get to know each other,” said Adam Lee, this year’s host.  “They all share the PBD experience, but not the same time in the studio (or even before there was a studio for some).  Keeping connections and developing friendships are a major part of our program, and the Alumni Reunion accomplishes these goals each year.

Adam Lee, and recent Alumni Evelyn Crisostomo, Ryker Kay, Jevohn Gentry, Caroline DeFranco, and Jasmine Garcia