The YMCA is a place where children can cultivate their talents, develop new skills and build bonds of friendship. Eleven year-old Alexandria Pride has been able to accomplish all three through her involvement with the C.W. Avery Family YMCA’s Thrive Dance Team.
“Dancing is a part of me and so is this team. I’ve grown up with it and it brings me joy. It’s a happy place for me,” Alex said.
Alex has been dancing at the Y since she was three years old and joined Thrive at the age of five. One of the highlights of her time in the program came back in March. Competing against over 150 dancers at the Starbound Competition in Elgin, she was one of just six to receive a scholarship for the New York Dance Experience, a day-long event held in Atlantic City.
Thrive Dance Team Director Kristen Derengowski said it was a deserving honor for somebody with as much passion as Alex.
“I have done a lot of choreography for (Alex) over the years. I’ve worked with her individually, in a duo, and in a group setting. She is a super hard worker,” Derengowski said.
In July, Alex and her mom traveled to the east coast for this amazing experience. While in Atlantic City, Alex got to meet an array of professional dancers and took part in training for a set of five routines.
“She was nervous in the beginning, but by the end of the day you could see her get more confident in everything she did,” Alex’s mom Kelly Pride said.
The event gave Alex a chance to be immersed in a wide range of dance styles.
“My favorite dance style is lyrical because I’m really good at showing emotion. But my favorite style we did at the Experience was the funk jazz because it was a mix between jazz and hip-hop. It was a new thing for me,” Alex said.
Alex said she learned the importance of being detail oriented when it comes to performing.
“One of the judges said that she would always rather have somebody go out on stage to do one single pirouette, and land it perfectly, than go on stage to do a bunch of tricks and mess them up,” she said.
Derengowski believes Alex’s experience will help the team in more ways than one when the fall dance season gets underway.
“It’s positive reinforcement that her hard work has paid off and she can be a motivating person for other dancers as well. She is starting to become more of a leader,” Derengowski said.
When not dancing herself, Alex volunteers with the Y’s Tiny Dancers (ages 2-3) and Dance Beginnings (ages 3-5) programs. She is also looking forward to trying out for Thrive’s newly created Hip-Hop group.
“When (Alex) first started she had idols that she looked up to and to watch the older girls progress was just amazing,” Kelly said. “She always said ‘Mommy, I’m going to be like that!’. This summer, she finally realized ‘I’m the big girl now!’. I’ve seen her grow so much with this organization. We are legitimately a family.”
Auditions for the Thrive Competition and Hip-Hop Teams will take place on Friday, August 16 with Performance Team tryouts set for the following day. Youth dancers of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to attend. You can learn more about the Y’s dance programs here.