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'Still in awe of these performers’: Dancers shine at Disney World

The 'Most Magical Place on Earth' became the destination this past weekend for dancers when the Dance the World Disney Holiday event took place.

A group of approximately 150 people — including 40 recreational and competitive dancers from Miss Jennie’s Performing Arts Studio (MJPAS) in Innisfil, between the ages of five and 20 years old — travelled to Walt Disney World in Florida for the event, which took place Dec. 7-11.

They not only had the opportunity to perform a Moana-inspired dance in a showcase performance — which was a 12-minute musical theatre routine with jazz, lyrical, contemporary and acro — on the Theatre of the Stars stage, where Beauty and the Beast is performed daily, but they also danced in a parade through Disney Springs or down Main Street USA in front of the castle in Magic Kingdom, depending on their age.

Miss Jennie’s Performing Arts Studio co-owners Kate Badger and Jennie Chapman tell InnisfilToday that, in addition to their weekly classes, the dancers met for two hours every weekend since September to learn both routines, as the parade route routine was emailed to each participating studio around the world in advance.

They explained that the Moana routine was in honour of a new Walt Disney World attraction at EPCOT called the Journey of Water, which is inspired by the 2016 Disney film, Moana.

“Their professionalism and the level of difficulty in that routine is not something you would expect from a group who only worked together once a week for a few months,” Chapman said. “The choreographer, Miss Alyssa, and our amazing teachers Miss Kendra and Miss Kaitlyn all worked with MJPAS staff, parents/supporters and dancers to pull off this amazing Disney masterpiece that brought the audience to tears and to their feet with a standing ovation.”

“We are still in awe of these performers,” Badger said. “As an optional event offered to anyone in our competitive or recreational program and then further opened to siblings who were travelling, too, the Moana production is not only a show-stopping performance, but also such an incredible testament to the dancers' dedication and commitment.”

She explained that friends and family who couldn't make it on the trip were excited to watch the video of the Moana performance, which has almost 5,500 views on Facebook at the time of writing.

Hayley Salviato, 10, had been dancing in Miss Jennie’s recreational program for a few years before she joined the competitive team in 2022. She was chosen as the middle of the three Moana characters in their production.

"It was a phenomenal and unforgettable experience. I was so full of excitement the whole time,” Salviato said.

Miss Jennie’s has participated in Dance the World events in the past, including the Disney Holiday event in 2016. They planned to attend the 2020 event, but it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The chance to go again came up for Canadian teams this year, so we jumped at the opportunity to take dancers on this incredible trip to make these memories together,” Badger said. “There are so many events for dancers to be ranked and judged, but this event is just a chance to dance for the love of it and a chance to travel together as a studio group making memories.”

Badger explained that the magic of Disney was alive and well throughout the trip, as dancers not only saw behind-the-scenes at Walt Disney World, but were featured as Disney performers in a phenomenal venue.

“For many of the dancers, it was their first trip to Disney and they are already begging to go back,” she said.

Miss Jennie’s Performing Arts Studio is located at 847 Innisfil Beach Rd.

Dance the World events can be found on Instagram here.

Amber Green

About the Author: Amber Green

Amber is a freelance journalist with InnisfilToday. Dedicated to the craft of writing, she is a storyteller at heart who writes novels, poetry, and short stories. She lives in Innisfil.
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