Peek into my prime time TV indulgences and you’ll see I’m one of those “Dance Moms” who will “Bring it!”
Yes sir. I’m a fan of the Lifetime series chronicling the dance world through the Abby Lee Miller Dance Company and Dianna Williams’ Dancing Dolls – and all the mamas.
Imagine my thrill when I got wind of Just Dance Divas, Raleigh’s own budding traveling competition dance team. It’s the brainchild of Cantrailia Preston, a Chapel Hill native and Saint Augustine’s University alumna who started Just Dance Studio in Charlotte 10 years ago and moved it to Raleigh three years ago.
Preston describes her troupe’s artistic flair as “hip-hop, with a flash of funk jazz.” It’s not like the Dancing Dolls on the show “Bring It!” which features majorette-style dance that has gained popularity in recent years as a nod to band dance lines at historically black colleges and universities.
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Dancers ages 10 to 18 can audition for Just Dance Divas’ upcoming competition season Saturday, Aug. 15, at Just Dance Studio on New Hope Road. Dancers will learn a choreographed routine and then face the judges.
Just Dance Divas opened July 18 for five of the Dancing Dolls who performed and conducted workshops at Durham’s Hillside High School. The troupe also won second place in its first competition.
“I felt like I was Kayla,” said Brittnee McClain, a Heritage High School senior and outgoing captain of the Just Dance Divas, referring to her Dancing Dolls counterpart, Kayla Jones. “I got to lead them and that felt great.”
It’s momentum for the upcoming season.
“I want to show people we have something here in Raleigh, and we have the talent to go with it,” said Preston, 36. “Everybody focuses so much on Atlanta or Mississippi or Memphis. Nobody thinks Raleigh, or even North Carolina, has anything to offer. We do.”
More than dance
Just Dance isn’t just about dance.
To perform with the troupe, proof of good grades is a must. There also are lessons on work ethic, drive and determination, and about confidence, courage and resilience. And there’s community service, a passion instilled in Preston by her sisterhood, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
“I try to keep them in a positive atmosphere, on a positive path,” said Preston, whose high school cheer and dance coach served as a mother figure. “I was one of the girls who came from the projects and didn’t have much when I was growing up. It was tough, but I feel like dance was a gift from God.”
Funny, though: “I couldn’t dance when I was young. I had no rhythm,” Preston said. “I got it now!”
After two attempts to dance or cheer for Charlotte’s NBA team or the Carolina Panthers, Preston opened Just Dance Studio to offer dance classes and host summer and track-out camps.
If you plan to audition for the traveling troupe, be sure to bring your best look and attitude.
“They need to look and act like they’re at a professional tryout,” Preston said. “This is preparing them for the world.”
And that’s why all this meets my fancy. Not only am I a reality TV fan, but I consider dance among the five greatest forms of self-expression – alongside music, literature, drama and visual art.
My thoughts echo the sentiments of LaToya White, whose daughter, 12-year-old Tionna White-Robinson, has danced with Preston for three years.
“She feeds into their strongest points,” White said of Preston’s impact on students. “Just Dance brings out pizzazz, confidence, self-esteem and this overall awareness of who they are.”
Preston isn’t a pushover, though, White said, comparing her to Miller of “Dance Moms” and Williams of “Bring It!”
“She is a firecracker,” White said of Preston’s “zone” of seriousness and focus on competitions and recitals. “It makes them want to do more and to keep coming back.
“It’s beyond recreation and sport. There’s reward at the same time.”
Find out more
Just Dance Studio will host an open house from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, at 515 S. New Hope Road, Suite 104, Raleigh.