Maybe it was the title of the song or the energy of the dancers, but 7-year-old Danika Hill and 8-year-old Ryan Vettel put their best foot forward and won first place in the Petite Division of Dance USA Nationals in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Performing a tap routine to "Movin' On Up," the theme from "The Jeffersons" TV show (1975-1985), Danika and Ryan delighted the judges who complimented their number as "good" and "cute."
The dance was choreographed by Angee Maw, who works with Gina Kaskie Davis, owner/operator of the Western Nevada Performing Arts Center in Carson City. Danika wore a polyester, knee-length dress tied at the waist, with a matching head wrap, and Ryan looked dapper in a brown suit.
"He has been enamored with music and dancing since the time he was born," said Jessie Vettel, Ryan's mother. Ryan has also played the violin for more than four years.
Ryan and Danika, who also won first place in regional competition, each have taken lessons in ballet, musical theater, tap and jazz.
"I like tap best," Ryan said. "It's more fun."
He is entering the third grade at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic School. He is the son of Jessie and John Vettel of Carson City.
Danika prefers hip-hop. She is the daughter of Laura and Don Hill of Carson City.
"I like dancing with my friends and learning new dance steps," she said. Danika is entering the third grade at Seeliger Elementary School.
"I wouldn't have this trophy if Angee hadn't taught me so well," Danika said, pointing to their six-foot trophy.
When she grows up, Danika said she would like to teach dance.
"If there's a new style of music, I guess I'll learn it and teach dance to it."
Ryan also won the Future Star Award from Dance Spirit Magazine for his solo tap number to Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean."
"There seems to be a resurgence of tap," said Jessie Vettel. "Four of the top-five performances at the Spot Light competition were tap."
Kaskie Davis said, from her studio, 35 of 48 routines performed at a regional competition in Reno made it to nationals.
Kaskie Davis also received a national award for Teacher of the Year.
"I have absolutely no idea how or why I was selected," she said modestly. "It's very nice, though. It's like a congeniality award, which this studio has won several times before."
All dancers competing in the national competition had to qualify through a regional competition, held June 7 in Reno. Categories included individual, duet and group routines. Divisions were judged by age from Mini (4-6); Petite (7-9); Junior (10-12); Teen (13-15); Senior (16-18), and Adult (19-older).
"Everybody worked very hard," Kaskie Davis said. "They would perform a routine and do it again and again and again.
"Each of them had many hours of dance practice to get their levels up."
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