WNC Dance Academy Gains Top Honors and Professional Teachers - TribPapers

WNC Dance Academy Gains Top Honors and Professional Teachers

Diamond Award winner, Olivia Hillard, Solo. Photo by EPIC.

Asheville – The EPIC Showcase Dance Competition was held April 21–23 in downtown Asheville at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center. The competition was sold out. Highlighted were dancers from across North Carolina in three age groups: Mini Company (ages 6–8), Junior Company (ages 9–12), and Teen Senior (ages 13–18). Dancers from several local dance studios performed.

WNC Dance Academy Dancers Receive High Honors

The dancers, costumes, and choreography were wonderful, and the audience was both excited and supportive of each dancer. There was a feeling of camaraderie. One local dance studio whose dancers were participating did very well. That was WNC Dance Academy, owned by Cary Petrusek.

WNC Dance Academy’s Large Group, dancing to the song Who Am I? won top honors with the EPIC Diamond Award, First Overall, Large Group. The dancers included Gracie Fiano, Olivia Hillard, Amara Kawar, Rose Moye, McKenzie Quarrier, Kali Schmitt, Annabella Zoller, Anna Mccrary, Louci Thomason, Ava Walicki, and Eden Galloway.

The Small Group, Lyrical, dancing to the song Fall For You, received a Diamond Award, and two solo dancers, Amara Kawar, dancing to New Skin, and Olivia Hillard, dancing to My Way, both received a Diamond Award, Solo. Eden Galloway, dancing to Violence, also achieved top honors, receiving an EPIC Diamond Award, Solo.

WNC Dance—A New Direction

Petrusek is very proud of her students and now wants to take the academy in a new direction. She owned a dance studio in Colorado until three years ago, when she moved back east and took over the WNC Dance Academy. According to Petrusek, “We have done competition for the last three years, but we are shifting to a repertory company.” Petrusek explained, “In this repertory program, we’re going to be doing a pre-professional training program for aspiring young artists. Our goal is to offer a pre-professional program that has every style of dance. Right now, there are some programs that heavily focus on ballet, and we will as well. Ballet is your technique, and if you’re going to get great training and really want to move on into a pre-professional career, you have to have a strong ballet foundation, but we also love jazz, contemporary, modern, lyrical, tap, and hip hop. We do a little bit of everything.”

Most competitions are not here in Asheville, and many require a lot of travel. This means family and friends, as well as our local community, seldom get the chance to see these amazing dancers. “Some of our kids will probably still go and do some solos or do trios in competitions if they want to, but we’re going to be focusing on doing local performances for the community at Diana Wortham and other venues in town, so that we can actually bring the art of dance to the local community,” said Petrusek. “People in the area don’t get to see this dance except for our spring recital performance at the Diana Wortham Theater, but this repertory program would be something where we do multiple performances throughout the year in the actual community.”

Incredible Talent Moved to Asheville

We’ve had some amazing talent that has moved into the area. Some people left some of the bigger cities during the pandemic, including Jamie DeVito, who was an assistant principal at the Boston Ballet School. DeVito is the new Artistic Director for WNC Dance and will be heading up the ballet program. She is a dance educator, choreographer, teacher trainer, and collaborative artist whose own training started at Grand Rapids Ballet School. She continued her professional training through attending summer intensive programs with the American Ballet Theatre, the Vail International Dance Festival, and the Juilliard School.

Petrusek and DeVito will also be working with Stewart-Owen Dance, a contemporary dance company co-founded by husband-and-wife team Gavin Stewart and Vanessa Owen. Stewart-Owen is the resident dance company of Asheville’s Wortham Center for the Performing Arts.

WNC Dance is also bringing in five new instructors to their staff. One of these is Nick Kepley, of whom Petrusek said, “This is huge, actually. We’re so excited that Kepley is going to also be on our team. He moved here from New York City.”

An Amazing Opportunity for Dance Students

“In a smaller city like Asheville it was harder to get this kind of talent that is moving to this area,” said Petrusek. “It really is amazing the kind of top-notch dance education you’re going to receive with all these professional artists that are moving here, a pre-professional repertory program that has all the styles of dance. This is a real positive way to share our love of dance and give our students a chance to perform.”

WNC Dance Academy’s recital will be June 4th at the Diana Wortham Theater. To learn more about WNC Dance Academy, go to https://www.wncdanceacademy.com.