Every year the Barbara Yates Company Dancers head to regionals, but this year Yates is taking her team to the next level.
Eleven dancers age 13-17 will be heading to the Dance Machine National Championships in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee next month. The number of studio members who placed is actually higher than that, but Yates is choosing to focus on some of her older students in their first year of competing at nationals.
"I chose this time to only take some of my older (dancers) to kind of test the waters," Yates said. "I don't want to go and it to just be a downer for the girls."
For her older students, many of whom hope to continue their dance careers beyond high school, it's not just a competition but a learning opportunity.
"It gives these girls the chance to see girls who are just as good, who are even better, who are not as good — the chance to see where they stand, because several go on to college (teams)," Yates said.
Dancing isn't a competitive sport for all of Yates' 200-plus students, however. On Saturday, the two groups got a chance to perform together at Barbara's School of Dance's 24th-annual recital at Benjamin Russell High School. In a lovely respite from the humidity, this year's theme was "Christmas Spectacular."
The national competition is being held July 15-18.
Correction: A previous version of this article said there were 45 dancers going to the national competition. There are actually 11 going to nationals of the 45 dancers who compete.