Selected dance teams from across the State of New Jersey executed their routines for a distinguished panel of judges at the first-ever Academy of the Holy Angels Dance Invitational. In addition to being the first event of this kind hosted by AHA, the March 14 invitational was the only opportunity for in-person dance competition during the 2020-21 season. COVID-19 safety was a priority.
According to officials, AHA Varsity Dance Coach Jenny Sweet organized the event, which allowed performers from elementary school through college to dance for several distinguished judges. AHA’s panel included Alyssa Quezada, head coach of the Knicks City Dancers; Heather Briody, national champion with the St. Joseph's University Dance Team and current Philadelphia Wings Dancer; and Alfonse Napolitano, who earned a BFA in dance from Montclair State University.
In addition to the home team, participants included Rancocas Valley, Palisades Park, Immaculate Heart Academy, West Milford, Barnegat High School, Brackman Middle School, Jersey Girls All Stars, and Stockton University.
“We welcomed over 100 dancers to AHA's campus from across New Jersey,” Coach Sweet reported.
“A block schedule was designed where dance teams were given personalized access to AHA for warm up, costume changes, and performance. This prevented any cross-contamination among teams to ensure the highest level of safety for all participants. All were required to wear masks throughout the duration of the event. AHA sanitized all surfaces in between the teams' arrivals. We did not allow spectators; AHA livestreamed the event so families and friends could enjoy their favorite teams from the comfort of their homes.
Enterprising parents arranged an outdoor viewing session. “They set up full screens in the trunks of their SUVs and were cheering on their kids from the parking lot!” Sweet explained.
After the event, Barnegat High School Coach Diane Stanton told Sweet, “I can't thank you enough for going above and beyond,and for hosting the competition. It brought a sense of normalcy for the girls, something they really needed, and it was so important for the seniors to dance one last time in person. They had such a wonderful time dancing. It was so organized, and ran smoothly and safely, and everyone was so accommodating. Please thank your administration. It truly meant the world to us. Stay safe and healthy!”