The Winding Springs Elementary School dance team gets some puzzled looks when it shows up for dance competitions dominated by private studios.
The girls and boys come from a north Charlotte public school where every child takes dance classes. It’s also a school where everyone gets free breakfast and lunch because poverty levels are so high.
They raised money to compete in the Star Dance Alliance world championship in New Jersey, then see a bit of New York City.
And their “Rule the School” hip-hop routine won the prize for top performance in their category, sending them back to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools as world champs.
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“Their faces were priceless. It was definitely emotional,” said teacher and dance coach Megan Zugelder-May.
Zugelder-May, a longtime dancer and pageant competitor, helped make dance a part of the Winding Springs school day for all students when she came five years ago. Students who want to join the competition team audition and practice after school.
Zugelder-May, who coaches with teacher assistant Lisa Lewis, helped the kids write sponsor letters to raise money for entrance fees, costumes and travel. The team won regional championships in Concord; Greenville, S.C.; and Spartanburg, S.C., before heading to the world competition just outside New York City the first week of August.
The 31 Winding Springs dancers topped finalist teams from New York, Ohio and New Jersey to win the world championship for their age (under 11), experience level (most are new to dancing) and group size (at least 19 dancers). Then they hit the city to see “The Lion King” and take a dinner cruise on the Hudson River.
Zugelder-May said the experience taught lessons about hard work and perseverance.
“It’s more than just dance,” she said. “It’s things that they can take with them their entire life.”