Something unexpected happened in April when the Level Up Dance team took part in a major competition in Orlando.
Despite the team being brand new, despite the fact that not one of the team members had ever competed before this year, despite going up against some of the top dancers from across Florida, Level Up Dance members won first place in two events and placed in the top five in all the others.
“All the moms were crying and screaming, and the kids were crying,” said Kim Hughes, whose teen daughters, Reilly and Madison, launched Level Up Dance less than a year prior to the Showstopper competition.
They knew the competition would be stiff, coming from well-established studios in places like Tampa and Miami. But it was to be a “learning experience,” Hughes said, a chance to see great dancing firsthand.
“When our girls won, it was so exciting,” said Reilly Hughes, “because they were competing against a lot of good dancers!”
It’s a testament to the quality of instruction and coaching offered by Reilly and Madison. But technical proficiency is only part of the reason the team has become such a quick success.
“I think it’s because we really believe in them,” said Reilly, 17. “We make sure we always give them positive feedback and always tell them they’re doing a great job.”
“You have to encourage them to want to work harder and know that they can do it,” said Madison, 15.
That approach harkens back to October 2021 when Reilly and Madison launched their first dance classes in Nocatee.
The Key to Success
With Kim Hughes as their “momager,” the sisters approached the management of the link, a business incubator and community hub at 425 Town Plaza Ave., and proposed teaching dance classes there.
The girls had been dancing in competitions since they were 6 years old while living in North Carolina, but when they moved to Florida six years ago they didn’t find the opportunities they were used to. So, they decided to launch their own studio.
It started small. They taught jazz and tumble and had five students. But it grew rapidly, especially since March 2022. Classes filled up and the sisters eventually added tap, ballet and hip hop at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.
They also launched Level Up Dance, their competition team, and 25 girls auditioned for that.
Today, more than 90 students are enrolled in either the recreational classes or the dance team. Students in the recreational classes range in age from 4 to 12. Team members are between 8 and 12.
From the start, Reilly and Madison wanted their Level Up Dance team to be like a family.
“We’re always making sure the girls are encouraging each other,” said Reilly. “They’re a team. They’re not here to tear each other down. They’re here to build each other up, always cheer for each other.”
In competition, the Level Up dancers even cheer for the other teams.
“I always want us to be that studio that makes other people feel good about themselves,” Reilly said.
In addition to their success in Orlando, the team performed well at a competition in Jacksonville. They won two first places, a third place, placed in the top 10 for all their group dances and had solos that placed as well.
The Level Up Dance team will conduct auditions on Saturday, May 20. Tryouts for the new minis group (ages 5-6) will be held at 2 p.m. Tryouts for ages 7-10 will be held 2:30-3:30 p.m., and those for age 11 and older are set for 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tryouts are free and open to both link members and nonmembers.
Team members will participate in dance intensives in July.
There will also be two dance-and-tumble summer camps open to children age 5 and older, both members and nonmembers. The first session on June 12-16 is already full, but the second, June 26-30, still has some open seats.
To learn more about the camps, the Level Up Dance team and classes, go to thelink.zone/getactive or download the app at thelink.zone/getapp.
The Level Up website is levelupdanceandtumble.com.