In the world of competitive dance, one Oak Harbor team is rising to the top.
Dancers in the veteran-led Rise Academy of the Arts dance studio are approaching the end of the season laden with awards they earned along the way, including several from two events the team attended last month.
The Rise dance team consists of 15 dancers ages 5 to 17. With 17 different ballet, tap and jazz routines, the group has won first place overall at three events this season, 18 platinum awards and 10 different dance convention scholarships, among many other accolades.
Dance instructor Holly Miguel said the team is graded in technique, musicality and costumes at competitions. For a group of dedicated dancers, competitions facilitate learning and improvement as the team reviews critiques from the judges.
And Rise dancers are nothing if not dedicated, Miguel said, citing the team’s discipline as one of its greatest strengths. She said the oldest dancers in the group commit as much as 18 hours a week to dance.
“The kids that come in here, it’s a commitment,” she said. “They understand, it’s not like you can just wake up and be like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go today.’”
But it’s more than scores and awards that motivate these dancers. Rise dancers have performed regularly at assisted living facilities around the city as a way to give back.
“A lot of what we do in the team is not just getting on stage and performing. We like to see the kids actually perform in the community,” Miguel said.
These performances are both fun for the residents and enlightening for the dancers — for newer performers who haven’t been on stage before, community performances such as these are often the first place Miguel said she sees the dancers “glow.”
Rise Academy of the Arts was established in 2018 and offers recreational and competitive dance programs.
For Miguel, operating her own dance studio is nothing short of a dream come true. Miguel started dancing at 10 years old, a little older than most dancers take up the art. She eventually joined Alexander Ballet, a performing ballet company in St. Louis, Mo., where she danced until she quit to pursue cheerleading.
After retiring from the Navy in 2019, Miguel took over Rise Academy’s dance department. She said she remembers walking through the academy’s doors for the first time and knowing she had found her place.
“This is like my dream studio,” she said. “It really is a place for everyone to come and just let go, just be themselves. There’s no judgment here. This is my forever job.”
The competitive team will perform at its final competition of the season May 14 in Seattle. Rise Dance Academy will also put on a recital at 10:30 a.m. June 4 at the Coupeville Town Park pavilion. The recital is open to the public, and attendees are encouraged to bring a camp chair or blanket to sit on. Refreshments will be available for purchase.