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Dancing Leads to Fitness and Friendships

Tori and Mia’s story

In 2014, two 9-year-old girls, Mia and Tori, joined the Park District’s first-ever competition dance class. Their team won second place and a special award in their first completion, making the Park District proud.  Beyond the excitement of that first year, their dance experience has strengthened their friendship and sparked their interest in other dance classes and a variety of fitness activities.


Mia and Tori

The 2014-15 team was recognized at a Park Board meeting for their achievements 

Now in their third year as students in the competition dance class, Tori and Mia are part of a team of 9 dancers, ranging in age from 9 to 11. Their teacher is Stacey, an experienced choreographer who also works with the District’s Élan Dance Company.


Competition Dance class rehearsing at Fort Hill Activity Center

The class meets at the new Fort Hill Activity Center in one of the wood floor studios. The girls said that they sometimes come to the Center early to do stretches or walk around the track. “I love it,” said Mia. “It’s so nice here.” 


Daija, a student in the Competition Dance Class

“My sister takes gymnastics,” added Tori. “When we come here, there is always something to do.  We also play volleyball here.”

Last summer, the girls were able to work with a personal trainer, who is a friend of Tori’s mother. “We worked on running and strength training and then went to the pool for the rest of the day,” said Tori. 

Their active summer paid off in gym class this fall. Mia reported that she used to be able to do only 2 push ups at school, but this year she can do 32. And Tori added that in the pacer run, last year she could only run 13 times back and forth, but this year she  can run 25 times.

This school year, the girls are branching out, taking a hip-hop jazz fusion class for the first time, in addition to the competition dance class.

Claire’s story

Claire, age 9, is a second-year student in the competition dance class. I was able to talk with her mother, Karen, who was waiting in the seating area outside the wood floor studio at Fort Hill Activity Center during Claire’s class. 

Claire is standing in the front row, nearest to the camera

Claire has been dancing since she was 2 years old, beginning with ballet and then moving to jazz. She was encouraged by a friend to join the competition dance class last year, and wanted to sign up for it again, even though her friend did not continue this year.  Claire also is a member of the Junior Company in Élan Dance Company, which meets on Saturday mornings. 

Karen explained that last year the girls were nervous about the competition at first, but that they learned from observing the other teams and from the experience of performing in front of judges. “The competition adds interest and excitement for the girls,” said Karen. “Claire likes the fast pace of the class and the upbeat music.  And Stacey is a great teacher.”  


2015-16 Competition Dance Team. Photo courtesy of Karen Curran

“Claire’s older sister also participated in dance classes when she was younger,” added Karen. “She is now a freshman in high school, where what she learned from dancing—good posture, strength, confidence, body awareness and graceful movement— are helping her excel in marching band.”

Upcoming Competition Dates

The competition dance team is excited about participating in two competitions early in 2017.  The first is the Des Plaines Dance Idol Competition the weekend of February 3-4.  The second is the Cathy Roe Ultimate Dance Competition  at Oswego High School East, the weekend of March 3-5.  Go, team!

Click here to see the dance team begin putting together one of the dances for the upcoming competitions.

Dance Academy Classes for Winter Begin in January

Both children and adults are invited to try a dance class at the Park District. Seasonal classes, for example, Adult Beginning Ballet (ages 16 and up) and Musical Theater Dance (ages 8-13) begin in January and continue into March.  Recital classes run from January through May, and include participation in the annual spring dance recital.

Check the Program Guide for a listing of all of the dance classes available. Fun, fitness and friendship are just a few of the many benefits that can enrich your life through dance.

Students in a Ballet Basics class


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