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    Dancers limber up for Orange Bowl

    Members of the Dancemoves Studio have still more rehearsing to do before Wednesday evening's performance.

    By JULIANNE WU

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 30, 2000


    SEMINOLE -- Having been chosen to perform in halftime festivities at the FedEx Orange Bowl on Wednesday has some of Susan Hartley's dancers hopping.

    Especially during rehearsals.

    The 16 dancers -- ranging in age from 9 to 21 and including Hartley's son, Shane, 15, and daughter, Elizabeth, 21 -- will be part of a 500-member dance group at the Orange Bowl in Miami when Florida State meets Oklahoma for the Division I national college football championship game.

    "I think the most valuable thing for my dancers being in events like this is getting to work with different choreographers with different styles. It will be an amazing life experience," Hartley said.

    Two years ago, some of her dancers participated in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York. Last spring, Hartley took them to perform at Universal Studios in Orlando.

    Ever since the dancers received the invitation to the Orange Bowl in March, they have been doing lots of fundraising. So far, they have raised about $20,000 through car washes, candy sales and private donations. In addition to the 16 dancers and Hartley, seven chaperones will travel to Miami.

    It will cost each dancer $975, not including airfare, to make the trip. Included in the cost are the costumes they will wear at the Orange Bowl show, which they get to keep. The older kids will wear gold sequined overalls, black T-shirts and black headbands, while the younger kids will have black sequined overalls, black shirts and black headbands.

    The dancers received the music and videotapes of the choreography only a month ago, meaning they had to squeeze many rehearsals into a short amount of time.

    The choreographer, Doug Jack, did the choreography for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 27th Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, Hartley said.

    Dancers have been rehearsing every day leading up to their departure for Miami on Sunday, said Hartley, who moved her Dancemoves Studio from the Seminole Mall to a shopping center on the corner of Seminole and Park boulevards in August.

    Once the dancers arrive in Miami, they will be involved in four or five hours of rehearsals a day right up to the big show.

    "But we do get to attend a New Year's party before we start," Hartley said.

    In the halftime show, they will share the stage with Chante Moore, an R&B singer; platinum country artist Lee Ann Womack; Hispanic singer Luis Fonsi; and a Canadian band, soulDecision.

    The troupe also will get to participate in an Orange Bowl Beach Bash and a parade. But they won't get to see the big football game between No. 3 Florida State and No. 1 Oklahoma.

    "Because it is a national championship, tickets are at a premium," Hartley said.

    "No, we won't get to go the game, but that is okay," said Kendra Chittenden, 17, a senior at Largo High. "The halftime is the best part anyway."

    Chittenden, who has danced with Hartley's group for nine years, takes it in stride. She was in the Macy's parade two years ago and has tasted a little fame, taking lessons in New York in the summer of 1997.

    But for Alyssa Marshall, 10, a fifth-grader at Oakhurst Elementary School, it is a different story.

    "I'm excited because we'll be performing on live TV. I've never done anything like this before," she said.

    Alyssa, in her fifth year with Hartley, takes tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical and point (toe dancing) and acrobatics. She's also a member of a group called the High Steppers.

    "In my spare time, I practice," Alyssa said.

    Related coverage

    Dancers win ticket to big game (October 8, 2000)

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