Marion dance team overcomes hurdles, heads to nationals

By Georgia Sparling | Mar 01, 2017
Courtesy of: Amanda Souza Heather Patrick, who has autism, couldn't lift her feet off the ground when she began taking dance, but she earned gold, a first place in her category and a first place overall in her division at the competition.

Marion — They went. They danced. They won!

Adagio Dance Company, part of Marion’s Adagio Arts and Wellness Center, recently sent its biggest team to date to the Groove Dance Competition in East Haven, Connecticut with every dancer taking home a medal and qualifying for Groove’s national competition in July.

“This group, I thought, was probably going to be the best because we’ve been dancing together for a while,” said Taylor Crippin, a 15-year-old dancer from Marion.

The 10-person team ranged in age from 5 to 31, and several of the competitors had to clear some steep hurdles to make it to the stage.

Heather Patrick, a 25-year-old woman who has autism, began dancing with Adagio owner Danielle Lopes as a child.

“When she started at age eight, her feet were not able to leave the ground,” Lopes said.

At the competition, she performed in a group piece called “Autism Speaks.”

“She was so brave to go up and compete and to put her story out on the stage for all to see,” said choreographer and Adagio office manager Amanda Souza, who has also overcome a lot to dance.

Souza, Lopes’ sister-in-law, said she always loved dance but developed an anxiety disorder as a teenager. Isolation and anxiety lead to severe weight gain.

“On my wedding day, I weighed 297 pounds, and I am only five feet tall,” Souza said.

She eventually got gastric bypass surgery but needed to get healthy, so she returned to dance. She also decided she wanted to “knock competing off my bucket list.”

The 32-year-old performed a solo at the Groove competition, ending up first in her category and overall in her division.

The team’s “all for one” was an encouragement to everyone on the team

“We’re all really close,” said Crippin, who danced to “Me and My Shadow” in a duo with 9-year-old Katelyn Craig.

The girls worked hard for months with choreographers Lopes, Souza, JunnYahh and Sydnie Gomes. They put in extra hours in the studio perfecting their dances and even memorized each others’ choreography, but Lopes daughter, 13-year-old Jaeda Lopes, said there was never too much pressure put on the team.

“She understands you can’t just be dancing all the time,” Jaeda said of her mother.

Lopes doesn’t aim to be one of those reality TV “Dance Moms.”

“My motto with all of them is, ‘You’re only competing with the person you were yesterday,” she said. “I told every one of them, ‘Have fun more than anything.’”

The girls certainly took that advice to heart and are now looking ahead to the competition this summer. Like football players getting ready for playoffs, they’re reviewing videos from their last performance, and hoping to win big.

“So when nationals come, we’ll do better,” said Jaeda.

The Adagio dance team. The Adagio dance team. Front row left to right: Chelsea Johnston, Sofia Frost, Reign Fernandes, Jaeda Lopes; Center: Katelyn Craig; Back row left to right: Jasmine Andrade, Amanda Souza, Taylor Crippin, Heather Patrick, Kara Blanchette. (Courtesy of: Amanda Souza)
Jasmine Andrade, Taylor Crippin and Katelyn Craig perform "Orange Colored Sky", which earned gold and first place.
Taylor Crippin and Katelyn Craig dance to "Me and My Shadow," which earned high gold and second place.
The "Autism Speaks" group dances and shares Heather Patrick's journey with autism.
Amanda Souza dances to "I Will Follow You," which earned her a gold, first place and a first place overall in her category.
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