Dancers enjoy thrill of New York visit
"It was the trip of a lifetime. We've never had so much fun."
These sentiments from Halftime by Sheri owner and instructor Sheri Praska speaking on behalf of the parents and daughters who had the opportunity to participate in a dance convention trip to New York July 11-16 as representatives of the Sparx 5th and 6th Grade Dance Team from Halftime by Sheri dance studio located in West Fargo.
Making the trip were 13 dancers and 10 of their moms and one dad: Brianna and Maureen Woehler, Brooke Skogen, Kyra and Marla Hillman, Sarah and Gail Olson, Talon and Amber Stroh, Madi Edmisten and Jennifer Pool, Emily and Carol Stillwell, McKenna Briggs, Tommi and Corey Johnson, Riley and Tracey Reichling, Alex and Rachelle Rolstad, Sammi and Tammi Heath and Dallas and Cassandra Tufty, and coaches Sheri Praska and Jessica Pierce.
The girls qualified for the New York visit after competing on stage this year at the Applause Talent Presentations in Minneapolis. Another team from the studio was invited to go last year but declined, so when the opportunity presented itself again this year, the Sparx decided to accept.
Praska said the girls' participation was made possible by the generous support of individuals and businesses contributing to various fundraisers held in advance of the trip. "The fundraising was huge. We would not have been able to go without all this help. We want to tell our community, friends and family, thank you so much for helping us achieve this with all your support. We just appreciate it so much. The whole trip meant more because they girls knew they had worked so hard to make it possible to get there."
All in all the visit turned into a great experience, Praska said. From the start, all details were completely planned which took the worry out of where to go and what to do in unknown territory. Part of the correlating gift package each of the girls received included two T-shirts, dance shorts, tiara, and a rolling suitcase that came in extremely handy.
Staying at a hotel in the heart of Times Square, the group didn't have time to let any dust gather under their feet, busy from 7:30 a.m. to midnight each day, many of those hours spent walking to reach their intended destinations or simply sight see and other times relying on the convenience of the city's famous subway system.
As part of the planned convention sessions, the dancers had the opportunity to study hip hop at the Broadway Dance Center, with renowned dancer/choreographer Kelly Peters and a troupe of professional dancers; enjoyed classes with the Rockettes in Radio City Music Hall; and took classes from Broadway dancers featured in such shows as "The Lion King," "Mama Mia" and "Wicked."
During the free time allocated each had the choice of attending two Broadway shows or taking in a New York Yankees game; they attended the Hard Rock Café together; and concluded their stay the evening before departing with a highly emotional, mom-daughter dinner cruise around the Statue of Liberty, which many described as the coolest part of the whole trip.
The group also took in the sights and sounds of Times Square complete with policemen patrolling the streets on horseback, visited the Empire State Building, and were treated to a backstage tour of Radio City Music Hall.
They even brushed elbows with and captured some photographs of several movies stars in an outdoor setting in Times Square promoting animal welfare issues - among them, Angela Lansbury, Linda Lavin, Mary Tyler Moore, Bernadette Peters, and Joel Grey. They also spotted and took pictures of Sugar Ray Leonard in a restaurant.
A high point was taking in the 9/11 Memorial. "Most of these girls were just babies when the 9/11 tragedy occurred," said Praska, "So visiting ground zero was truly an eye-opening experience."
When all was said and done, everyone agreed the trip was well worth all the toil and pre-planning involved.
"Many of these girls and moms had never left West Fargo so to go to New York and see all the different sights and sounds was just amazing," one of the moms shared.
Another agreed. "New York was never on my bucket list but it was the best vacation I had ever been on."
The girls were also left with specific impressions of what they found to be the most memorable aspects of the entire experience and were eager to share one.
Brianna Woeller: "The tap dance class of learning many fast movements with your feet with the Rockettes was my favorite."
Riley Reichling: "I really liked the Brodway shows, I went to "Wicked." It was really fun."
Brooke Skogen: "I liked the 9/11 memorial because it was very nice and it was a nice thing to do for the people in that tragedy."
Talon Stroh: "I really liked the Empire State Building because it was cool to see all of New York."
Alex Rolstad: "I liked the whole thing, the experience overall. I'm 11 and getting the chance to go to New York is just amazing and a once in a lifetime experience so we tried to do everything."
Sarah Olson: "I liked Times Square at night, the lights were really pretty and they had more stores than here."
Kyra Hillman: "I liked the Broadway shows and our hotel. I had a really pretty view of Times Square. I would look out before I went to bed and saw all the lights and people, it was just beautiful.
Emily Stillwell: "I liked meeting new people in the other dancers that were there from Missouri, Florida and all the other places."
Madisyn Edmisten: "I got to share different memories with my team that I will always remember that I never had the opportunity to share before. I will talk about them as long as I live."
McKenna Briggs: "Going on the dance cruise and being able to see the Statue of Liberty at night was great. It was so nice and bright to see in dark."
Tommi Johnson: "My favorite part was going to M&M World and they Hershey's store with my friends in Times Square."