Rockville Centre dancers are headed for Hollywood


Looking forward to a trip from Long Island to Hollywood, two Rockville Centre dancers along with eight others from the Magnolia Dance Academy have advanced to the final round of one of the most prestigious dance competitions in the country — the Industry Dance Awards.

Dancers from the academy, which is located in Lynbrook, triumphed over other dance teams from all across the area to earn the People’s Choice Award nomination in the regional dance competition, Turn It Up. In April, they wowed judges with a hypnotizing contemporary routine performed by 10 teenagers who have been dancing together at Magnolia since they were small.

Team members earned the nomination after a series of rounds during the regional competition, and are now preparing to compete in the national Industry Dance Awards competition in October.

Kristen Pearson and Jamie Cook of Rockville Centre have been dancing at Magnolia since they were toddlers. Now co-captains of the group, they described the 10-person dance team as a family.

Pearson, 17, said the nomination was a testament to all the hard work and dedication the team has put in over the past 15 years at Magnolia. 

“We’re all very supportive, and we’re always there for each other on the hard days,” Pearson said. “I love to dance, and I love to be around the people I was with. I grew up with everybody in my group.”

Pearson said that even when competing against one another, the group would always come together and celebrate when one member succeeds.

“Every day I’d walk in and everyone would be there with open arms and such a positive energy,” she said. “It’s a family. It’s a team. It’s being able to find different ways to express yourself and it always made me feel like I was at home and always made me feel like I had a place to go.”

Magnolia Dance Academy’s captivating dance number was set to the song, “All For Us,” by Labrinth, and combined everything the students love about one another and dancing — the energy, the camaraderie, the dedication — and put it in motion.

“I absolutely loved this dance,” Pearson said. “I loved performing it. It was just so fun. You got to do so much of everything. It was like a mix of contemporaries, sharpening movements and we never really get to do something like this.”

Cook, 18, said that the routine was symbolic for members of the team who were in the midst of completing their senior year of high school and preparing for graduation in May.

“So we really felt like we were doing the dance for us and for our choreographer, as just this special thing to share — this special thing that we’ve created all together,” Cook said.

The dancers said Dena Vilardi, the academy’s choreographer and dance instructor for 19 years, was integral to their success. Her energy, dedication and choreographic skills were the inspiration for their award-winning performance, they said.

Vilardi said the award was the culmination of hours of practice and endless time, blood, sweat and tears in the studio together.

“For this to happen in their senior year means everything to them,” she said. “They put everything they have into this, and trained their whole lives for this moment. And it’s really the pinnacle for them to go out on such a high note, with one of the highest nominations in the industry.”

Team members were ecstatic when they found out that they had won. “At first we were all screaming. It was crazy,” Cook said.

Pearson said all of the dance teachers were so impressed that they gave the team a standing ovation.

“We were all in complete shock and jumping up and down and screaming,” Pearson said. “It was an amazing moment that I could never forget.”

Kim LoPiccolo, who owns the Magnolia studio, said that over the last 15 years, she has watched as these kids have grown into young adults before her eyes.

LoPiccolo and Vilardi are already more than impressed with the group’s talent and passion and hope the routine will win the Industry Dance People’s Choice Award.

“It would be the most incredible way to finish their career at Magnolia Dance Academy,” LoPiccolo said. “It would be the culmination of all their years of training with us, spending time with us, (and) all the dedication that they put in as dancers of Magnolia to win this award.”

To view the Magnolia Dance Academy team’s winning number, and vote for it, go to