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Local Teen Dancers Take A Spin in Ballroom Competition

Melissa McRobbie (Reporter for the Daily Courier in Grants Pass, OR.)

Local teen dancers take a spin in ballroom competition

By Melissa McRobbie of the Daily Courier

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Not many teenagers spend the bulk of their free time practicing the paso doble, but that's just what Sage Bushman and Anton Drummond have been doing three days a week in preparation for the Rogue Valley Youth Ballroom Dance Championships on Saturday.

Eleven couples from all over the Rogue Valley are competing in the event in various styles of ballroom dance including Viennese waltz, quickstep and swing.

All of them also participated in a preliminary round in December in which they were taught specific cha cha and tango moves, then judged on how well they executed those moves. For this round, they're allowed to choose a dance style and perform a routine choreographed by teachers at the Evergreen Ballroom in Central Point.

Sage, 14, of Grants Pass, and Anton, 15, of Rogue River, are both home-schooled and manage to get their schoolwork done before or after practice. They've been planning to ramp up their dance schedule this week as the competition nears.

On a recent afternoon, a song by "The Piano Boys" blared as the fiery duo dipped and spun their way around the main floor at the Grants Pass Community Center. Their routine was choreographed by local teacher June Kranenburg.

In the paso doble, Anton explained, "The lady either is the cape or the bull, and the leader is the matador. It's a lot of fun. It's very challenging but we've got it down."

Dealing with nerves is part of the deal, he said.

"Your adrenaline when you're just a day away from the competition, it gets higher and higher and higher. The night before the competition you just want to get it done," he said.
Anton, who has been dancing since he was 9, said he and Sage clicked as partners. They placed second in the December preliminary contest.

"We were a match made in heaven when that came together," he said.

While Anton's favorite dance is the cha cha, Sage said she likes the waltz best.

"I just like how it is really smooth," she said.

She's looking forward to unveiling their routine on Saturday.

"I'm very excited," Sage said. "I'm really trying not to be nervous at all this year."

The championship, which will be held at the Evergreen Ballroom at 7 p.m. Saturday, is now in its third year.

It began before that as a dance competition that was part of Medford's Pear Blossom

festivities, but organizers decided to make it its own event.

One of the key people in that decision was Jeff Palpant, a financial adviser at Morgan Stanley who has personally funded various dance events throughout the Rogue Valley. Palpant is an avid dancer himself and says he wanted to get more young dancers involved and give them a bigger incentive to push themselves.

The national organization USA Dance got on board,

providing scholarship money for young dancers' training and

private lessons, and the contest was born. USA Dance also sponsors a youth ballroom dance program at North Medford High School.

Dozens of teen and preteen dancers competed in the compulsory round in December, but only the teen dancers were eligible to move on to the finals. All of the 11 teen couples who competed were given the green light to advance, although their December score will still count toward their final ranking.

"We have enough money in the budget to go ahead and let them all compete in the finals," Palpant said.

There is also prize money, and the top four couples on Saturday will compete in the Pear Blossom festivities on March 28.

Palpant himself caught the dance bug in 2006.

"My daughter got married and I wanted to start learning how to dance because I was going to have to do a father-daughter dance," he said.

He describes himself as a shy guy and said dancing has been a confidence booster for him.

He believes young people in particular have a lot to gain from learning to dance as they form their identities and learn how to relate to others. Dance skills can carry over into other aspects of life, "especially the amount of communication and respect that has to be shown to each partner," Palpant said.

The plan to promote youth dancing through the competition is working; the number of dancers has grown, and they're getting better.

"The level of dancing has come up tremendously since the beginning, and that's because of experience," he said.

Cori Grimm, one of the dance teachers helping with the routines, said the scholarships get the teens four hours of private lessons, "which, of course, we stretched because it takes longer than that."

She has about 70 students who range in age from 8 to their late teens.

Another instructor, Jennifer Berry, has been helping two couples with their Viennese waltz routines and another with their hustle/tango routine.

"It's really fun because they pick up things pretty quickly at their age," Berry said.

Palpant said it is a joy to see kids get hooked on dancing: "It's something that can never be taken away," he said. "They'll be able to dance forever."


Reach reporter Melissa McRobbie at 541-474-3806 or

See them dance

• WHAT: Rogue Valley Youth Ballroom Dance Championships

• WHO: Root for local couple Sage Bushman and Anton Drummond

• WHERE: The Evergreen Ballroom, 6088 Crater Lake Ave. Central Point

• WHEN: Saturday, 7 to 9:30 p.m.

• TICKETS: Admission at the door is $6 for adults, $5 for those 10 to 17 and free for those 9 and under.