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Anne Arundel County Public Schools honors its elite dancers from high, middle schools

AACPS named 26 high school students, 32 middle school students to its All-County dance team.
AACPS named 26 high school students, 32 middle school students to its All-County dance team. (JLowe Photos/JLowe Photos)

Jakiah Sorzano is still breaking off pieces of the shell that had kept her safe for so long. The North County junior has only just discovered what it means to put herself out there.

That’s why seeing her name among 26 high school students on Anne Arundel County’s list of All-County dance selections on Wednesday shocked her.

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“It means so much to me honestly. When I first started dancing seriously, about sixth grade, I didn’t really think anything like this would happen to me," Sorzano said.

Along with Sorzano and the 25 other high school dancers, 32 middle school students had been selected by the county for the honor. Six high schoolers and nine middle schoolers were also honorably mentioned.

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No dancer could have qualified without a full year of dancing for their company, performing at an “advanced level,” shown leadership, good attendance at both school and rehearsals and a 3.0 grade-point average or higher.

“It was good to know all the work I put in was being valued and noticed. Especially because right now is dance audition time,” said Old Mill High junior Jaci Cameron, another All-County select.

Without the opportunity to come together in a classroom, students are putting together complicated at-home auditions ⁠— a modern combination, a jazz combination, a ballet and a solo ⁠— and sending the tape off by June 2 to be judged, deciding whether they’ll make the company next fall.

Cameron is nerve-wracked. She hasn’t had a lot of time to put everything together.

“I’ve been dancing for a while and I learn videos from my phone all the time, so it wasn’t that difficult, but I’m sure for people trying out for the first time this year, it’ll be a lot more difficult for them," Cameron said. "I don’t know how they’ll decipher who should be on the company this year.”

Sorzano is actually enjoying the system forced upon them by pandemic restrictions better than the normal process, as she likes to train alone. She normally gets a few minutes with all eyes on her.

That’s something she’s become a little more accustomed to this year as her company’s manager this year.

But her biggest departure from her old shell came from her own mind.

All through their four years, dancers audition their own ideas to be performed by their company. With a penchant for spoken word, Sorzano set hers to the poem “The Girl Behind the Mask.” As dancers moved across the stage, they’d strip pieces of lace from their eyes, meant to represent the shedding of their shells. It was a risk, Sorzano said, as she’d never used props before.

“That’s basically me. I was shy, at first. I didn’t have many friends. I wanted to show people that I’m not too shy anymore,” Sorzano said.

Sorzano’s piece had been chosen to represent Old Mill in Anne Arundel County’s first annual showcase that would highlight one dancer from each school in the system. It was supposed to run April 3.

“I thought it finished pretty quick and was going pretty well," Sorzano said, "and then we got the news. It was pretty heartbreaking.”

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Sorzano’s hoping she can save it for next year. Her piece still lays dear to her heart.

If anything, the time she’ll have to wait to put it on, and constructive criticism from a panel of judges will only improve it.

Cameron was equally proud of her step into a leadership role this year. As the captain of her company, the three-year varsity dancer took on the responsibility of showing first-year teacher Amanda Quayle how Old Mill dance was done.

Cameron, who fell in love with dance at age 7 after trying several other sports, packed her junior season as much as she could. She focused more on county than studio dancing by taking part in the All-County ensemble and attended practice every Monday. During festival season, which ran over three weeks from late January to February, she performed every other night.

As if that weren’t enough, Cameron volunteered at her nearby elementary school, Southgate, where she’d started a dance program.

It’s all that and more that she’s proud of, but now she looks to the future and hopes there will still be one. First, there’s waiting on the results of her audition tape.

If the dancers were performing their auditions in person, they’d find out within a week whether and where they’d made the cut. But with school doors shut for the semester, the dancers don’t know when they’ll hear.

“I’m still planning as if it is. If I see a song, I’ll think, ‘That’s a good finale song.’ Or if I see a dance we’ll want, I’ll think ‘I’ll want to add that to my piece,’" Cameron said. "So I still think as if we’re going back to school in September, and that I’ll be dancing in September. Really hasn’t hit me yet.”

For Marley eighth grader Erin Mueller, finding out she made the All-County middle school squad was a breath of fresh air.

“It felt relieving because with all the stress with everything going on, it was one less thing to worry about," Mueller said. "I was very happy to win, because it’s just so crazy.”

Mueller dabbled in ballet as a young kid, but really began to take on dance when she entered middle school. It was in her last year before entering high school that Mueller felt she took her skills to a new height.

She took part in her school showcase and two county festivals. She performed in a concert at Glen Burnie High for their showcase as well.

Ballet, for Mueller, took off because she worked non-stop on her technique. She’d struggled with her performance quality in the past and ballet was her guide, polishing her confidence, balance and skill.

“I definitely paid attention more than ever, and worked my butt off trying to get everything done and to my best ability,” Mueller said.

Here is the list of the AACPS All-County selections:

High schools

Abigail Garwood, junior, Annapolis; Lillian Megan, sophomore, Annapolis; Ava Wishnow, junior, Annapolis (Performing and Visual Arts magnet); Shelby McDonald, junior, Annapolis (PVA); Marisa Cook, senior, Arundel; Elizabeth Miller, junior, Arundel; Alexandra Evans, junior, Broadneck; Julia Walshe, senior, Broadneck; Ariel Bertoglio, senior, Chesapeake; Karlee Zolman, senior, Chesapeake; Sierra Lucier, junior, Glen Burnie; Kaelyn Shannon, freshman, Glen Burnie; Alyssa Flage, junior, Meade; Kamryn Walker, sophomore, Meade; Kennedy Suber, junior, North County; Jakiah Sorzano, junior, North County; Anna Creekmore, junior, Northeast; Julia Larsen, junior, Northeast; Jaci Cameron, junior, Old Mill; Nyah Smith, senior, Old Mill; Kate Stefancik, junior, Severna Park; Magggie Kubista, junior, Severna Park; Molly Cook, junior, South River; Samantha Chamberlain, junior, South River; Emma Robertson, junior, Southern; Alexandra Schneider, junior, Southern.

Honorable mention: Alexis Rooney, sophomore, Annapolis; Abby Chinn, junior, Arundel; Anna Atkinson, senior, Broadneck; Hope Terrell, junior, Meade; Kaitlyn Bayne, junior, Northeast; Maureen Ramos Porteria, senior, Old Mill.

Middle schools

Destanee Butler, sixth grade, Annapolis; Ellie Knauer, eighth grade, Arundel; Ryan O’Kane, seventh grade, Arundel; Gabriela Eisele, eighth grade, Bates (PVA); Mackenzie Eisele, eighth grade, Bates (PVA); Jaydin Garnett, eighth grade, Brooklyn Park (PVA); Janiya McNeil, eighth grade, Brooklyn Park (PVA); Juliah Perdue, sixth grade, Central; Audriana Nier, seventh grade, Central; Allora Ferree, eighth grade, Chesapeake Bay; Zoe Kirk, seventh grade, Chesapeake Bay; Sarah Dively, eighth grade, Corkran; Madelyn Neal, seventh grade, Crofton; Skylah Miller, seventh grade, Crofton; Madison Aierstock, seventh grade, George Fox; Teigan Kelly-Turner, sixth grade, George Fox; Miri Chang, eighth grade, Lindale; Kennedy Hinds, eighth grade, MacArthur; Taleetha Shedrick, eighth grade, MacArthur; Lilly Moore, eighth grade, Magothy River; Caroline Powers, seventh grade, Magothy River; Neveah Frank, eighth grade, Marley; Erin Mueller, eighth grade, Marley; Alasiah McNeal, eighth grade, Meade; Natalie Craft, eighth grade, Old Mill North; Alyssa Macias, eighth grade, Old Mill North; Jordan White, eighth grade, Old Mill South; Jessica Reider, seventh grade, Old Mill South; Kyla Hunteman, seventh grade, Severn River; Emma Frederick, seventh grade, Severn River; Catherine Venters, eighth grade, Southern; Madden McGivern, eighth grade, Southern.

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Honorable mention: Sofia Robinson, eighth grade, Arundel; Ryennne Allen, eighth grade, Bates (PVA); Bethany Atkinson, seventh grade, Brooklyn Park (PVA); Sierra Quinn, seventh grade, Central; Sophia Rankin, eighth grade, MacArthur; Danielle O’Brien, sixth grade, Magothy River; Sabrina McNeill, eighth grade, Marley; MonaLisa Donkor, eighth grade, Old Mill North; Sienna McGraw, eighth grade, Southern.

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