BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - After 40 years of teaching, Kelli Dickens knows the thrill of a dance competition. If you can’t enjoy it in person, online is the next best thing, for teachers and students.
“For me as a teacher, to know that our kids are sitting in their living room, with their win suits on ready, excited with their parents: ‘Are we going to win? Are we going to have a place?’ It’s a new time for us,” said Dickens, owner of Kelli’s Steps in Biloxi.
This is the new reality: dance competitions online.
Dickens entered the first Platinum Dance virtual competition with submitted dance routines from a previous event.
The Saturday competition had 130 entries. Kelli’s Showstoppers had seven routines featuring 60 students.
The Toy Story routine won the choreographer’s award and Platinum Plus.
Leap of Faith, which involved all 60 showstoppers, won the first overall of the day
It was streamed live for everyone to see, including a mini caravan of students and parents who decided to watch it in the parking lot of the studio.
“This is our dance family. It’s part of our lives, part of our daily routine,” said Maria Thornton, mother of student Chandler Parks. “I felt like my daughter needed to get out of the house for a few minutes, and if Kelli didn’t mind, we would come out here and sit and watch it and still be at home.”
An online class is the heart of Dickens’ reinvention.
“I’ve been very lucky to have great people around me who have helped me get past this and know that I am also recreated the wheel," she said.
Dickens uploads dance routines to study and the students follow along.
“They are connecting, and it makes me feel very good about what I am doing,” she said. “And it’s important for all of us at this time to feel that we are giving back and we are continuing.”
Victoria Adams has been a dance student for 16 years.
“It’s really special to me to dance all that I can,” she said. “I mean it’s really cool what Miss Kelli has been doing for all of us.”
“I believe that dance is more than just a step," Dickens said. "It’s teaching life lessons. And, right now, we’ve got a life lesson to teach.”