Rec Sports Spotlight: Stepping Stars capping two big years

Front row: Angela Geppert, Emma Puller, Aleta Held (Dance Instructor), Lillie Cimmerer and Maryanna Antoldi. Top row: Alyssa Volpe, Maggie Vielandi, Amber Lawless and Hannah Boguski.
Front row: Angela Geppert, Emma Puller, Aleta Held (Dance Instructor), Lillie Cimmerer and Maryanna Antoldi. Top row: Alyssa Volpe, Maggie Vielandi, Amber Lawless and Hannah Boguski. (Submitted photo, Carroll County Times)

Stepping Stars team director Aleta Held will have a lot of pleasant memories this May as she watches the Stars' season-ending Spring Recital. This season, her two dance competition teams continued to show that they are among the best around. They maintained the standard of excellence they established two years ago after they were formed.

In fact, May will mark the second anniversary of that day in 2012 when a Stepping Stars team placed second in the first-ever dance competition in which a team of hers appeared.

Since then the Eldersburg-based program has maintained its winning ways.

In 2013, each of the two Stepping Stars competition teams compiled finished first and second place finishes in competitions.

In February of this year, its Dazzlers (ages 12-14) and Starlettes (ages 14-17) both took first places in a Baltimore dance competition sponsored by Kids Artistic Revue, a nationally-acclaimed competition company.

In March, the Dazzlers had first and second place finishes at the Bravo Dance Competition in Brooklyn Park, and the Starlettes were first.

The younger team also won another honor.

"They got a special judges award that is handed out regardless of points. They were given the 'Beauty in Simplicity Award' even though they finished only second in points in that competition. They won the judges' hearts so to speak," Held remarked.

She says her goal is for her students to attain consistent first place finishes, and oftentimes they have. In fact, her teams have won so many trophies in two short years of competition that Held is actually looking around for a trophy case to hold them all.

The teams are part of Stepping Stars Dance, a program which has been operating as part of the Freedom Area Recreation Council for about eleven years. Youngsters can start as young as the age of two. While the program is open to both boys and girls as well as adults, 95 percent of the students are female,Held says.

The students begin with creative movement and progress to tap, ballet and jazz dancing instruction.

While there are no auditions and any teen can join the competition teams, Held advises that they must be willing to put in a lot of effort if they do.

"They have to learn to dance and to apply themselves. They have to work hard and make a commitment," she says.

However the director adds that this work pays off in several ways.

Held believes that besides the pins, plaques and other awards, dancing competition gives youngsters intangible benefits that are more important in the long run. It develops a work ethic and sense of commitment in reaching a goal.It also improves self-confidence and teaches them how to work as a team.

She added that the flexibility and conditioning dance provides can help the youngsters when they play competitive sports as many do.

The dance classes for the teams and other students begin in September. Practices are two hours, once a week at Eldersburg's South Carroll Senior and Community Center. Held wishes she could fit in a second one, but notes that space is a problem.

Each team must master two, three-minute routines by February when competitions begin. Then in March, they learn a third routine which is used in the April dance events.

The routines feature a wide variety of musical genres. They may consist of country, classical, rock or selections from Broadway plays.The latter are a particular favorite for Held.

Throughout the practices, Held keeps her kids stepping.

"They definitely spend time working, because they know I mean business. When I'm not hard on them, they think something's wrong," she said with a laugh.

And yet they keep coming back.Many have been dancing for five years or more now. Those on the older team have been together for three years; for the younger team, two.

Held feels that the considerable time they have spent working together, plus their continuing effort, are the reasons they have been so successful to date.

She says that,"they get better because they want to be better. I expect a lot from them, but they expect a lot from themselves."

However despite their proficiency at dance, they still get nervous at competitions. Watching their opponents do their routines, not knowing what the judges are thinking or how they are scoring, can be a little nerve-wracking, Held says.

"At various points in the day, they get a little antsy even though they enjoy watching the others compete," Held said, adding," I tell them not to worry about what the others are doing. Worry about what you are doing. Do your best. When you leave the dance floor, you should have no regrets."

Held is always looking for new and interesting material on which to base future routines. She also makes it a point to expose her students to new things as well.

"I don't want them to be in a bubble. I want them to see new things so we can learn to adjust.I want them to practice what they see the others do," Held said.

Last November she took her teams to New York's Radio City Music Hall to see some of the most famous dancers of all-the Rockettes.

"It was really a great experience. They got a back stage tour and met one Rockette up close and personal. They were thrilled to death," Held recalled.

She added, "Me too. I was totally excited."

She says that seeing and talking to the Rockettes is important to her kids.They can tell their friends that they saw the world-famous dance troupe. But there is a more important benefit, too.

"It gives them a sense of confidence that, if they work hard enough, this could be them," Held stressed.

Held is looking ahead to next dance season. Some of the dancers on her Starlettes graduate from high school and move on, so she will need to replace them next fall. She is already looking for sign-ups.

Those interested should go to http://www.steppingstars.com, email steppingstarsdance@gmail.com or call 410-746-5205.