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Tiny dancer wins national crown

Natalie Rogers is only 8 years old and has already conquered one of the most prestigious competitions in the dance world.

She was crowned Petite Miss Dance America 2009 by Dance Masters of America in a competition held last month at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. She is the youngest person to win the title. The minimum age was changed this year from 10 to 7. Natalie won Petite Miss Dance North Carolina in November 2007.

The Rogers family, including Natalie's father, David, her grandmother, great-grandmother and a contingent of Miller Street dancers were in Orlando for over a week while Natalie faced auditions, interviews with judges and a nerve-wracking solo routine. She says she wasn't nervous about the 3,000 people in the audience.

“It wasn't the people, it was whether I was going to win or not,” she said.

Her winning routine was set to the song “Look What Happened to Me,” from the musical “Mack and Mabel.” The routine included jazz dance elements and acrobatics.

Natalie has been dancing since she was 2. Her mother, Michelle Rogers, owns Miller Street Dance Academy on Providence Road and is one of her instructors. The family lives in nearby Weddington.

The ethereal, 48-pound dancer trains eight hours a week with her other trainers Alyson Badgett, Rachel Franchi and Amy Santoro, who also work at Miller Street.

In the run-up to competition she may train as much as three to four hours a day.

Her weekends will now include traveling all over the country to appear in parades and crown the winners of state Miss Dance competitions.

Dance isn't Natalie's whole life, though. She swims and makes time to play with friends. Mom also has a “no dancing at home” rule and they don't talk about dance when away from the studio.

“When we get in the car we're just mother and daughter, not instructor and student,” Michelle says. “It maintains the balance.”

The next goal on the list for this Charlotte Latin third-grader is to land a part this fall in the production of “The Nutcracker” at Ovens Auditorium. She wants to play Clara or a sugar plum fairy.

After that, she's hoping to grow tall enough to be a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. To be in the famous dance troupe you must be at least 5 feet 6 inches tall. She now stands 3 feet 6 inches.

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