Even for an accomplished dance organization as Lana’s Dance Studio, what it did in the 2022 Kids Artistic Revue Nationals Dance Finals in Anaheim June 26-July 1 was nothing short of impressive.
Out of the 50-plus studios competing, Lana’s was the only one that had dancers reach the finals in all eight categories. They also ranked first overall in wins and won Studio of the Year and Choreographer of the Year.
Lana Wright, who is in her 44th year as the owner/director of the studio which has facilities in Morgan Hill and Gilroy, said she was extremely proud of all of her kids and staff members who helped in this achievement.
“It’s fun to watch them grow during the year and then go to Nationals and perform well,” said Wright, whose studio brought approximately 70 dancers to the competition. “Our kids consistently do very well in competition, and we’re known for being super sharp and clean in the dance world. I get asked all the time, ‘How do you guys do that?’ It’s just a lot of work and practice.”
There are several age groups competing in a variety of dance genres at four different levels: primary, secondary, intermediate, elite. The studio’s Glam team won the Secondary division during the week for their routine, “Ready Teddy,” before getting invited back for the Showcase event representing the Primary Large Group category on the final day of the competition.
The Showcase gathers all of the best individuals and groups throughout the week for one final competition and it’s one of the biggest honors one can receive in the event. “Ready Teddy” was Lana’s highest scoring routine.
The studio’s Sapphire & Onyx Premium teams won the Intermediate Large group for “When We Were Young,” which also got invited back for the Showcase. The Intermediate and Elite groups won in their respective categories for “Sparkling Diamonds,” and the Primary Small Group (ages 9-11) took second for “Runway Walk,” which also made the Showcase.
Tyler Catalano took sixth place out of 89 competitors in the Primary Solos 9-11 division.
The Elite solos (ages 15-19) excelled, including Kylee Gipson, who finished in fourth place out of 88 dancers. Izzy Latala, a Morgan Hill resident and incoming senior at Presentation High, competed in seven different dance acts—including a duet with her sister—as part of the Gem team for the age 15-19 Elite category.
Gem had teams in the small and large group categories and both had dance routines that made the Showcase. After their final routine, Latala and her fellow team dance members shared an emotional moment, as a couple of them performed for the final time for this particular age group division.
“It was the last time dancing with our seniors, we’re best friends and we’ve grown up with them,” Latala said. “It was such a crazy experience dancing with them one last time and for them closing that chapter in their life with them. When we got off the stage, we cried for five minutes as we reflected on the bonds we’ve made. I couldn’t help but think that will be me next year, so it’s very special I got to share that experience with them.”
This is Latala’s 16th year dancing at Lana’s, which offers classes and programs in tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, lyrical and contemporary. The Elite dancers are the most experienced and competing at the highest level. In the Elite 12-14 solos category, Avery Mittleman finished in third place and Lou Squerel took eighth.
“The Elite dancers condition, do cross training, flexibility, agility exercises, running, and then you have to learn all the dance steps on top of that,” Wright said. “It’s amazing how dedicated they are, but it’s not just them. We have some really hard-working dancers at each level.”
The Studio’s dance teams usually compete in a half-dozen regional competitions a year, but Wright said the Kids Artistic Revue Nationals is one of the events she looks forward to the most.
“This is our favorite Nationals because we get to compete against the best of the best,” she said. “We feel like the competition itself is extremely hard and that is what we want for our kids. It pushes our kids to a different level. Plus, the competition runs smoothly like a well-oiled machine.”
Wright uses the lessons she teaches through dancing as a way to prepare her students to have success in their future endeavors.
“Whether it’s getting up on time and being prepared for a college class, it’s about being prepared for everyday life,” Wright said. “There are so many more valuable lessons kids will learn through dancing.”
Since Lana’s Dance Studio opened, dozens of its alumni have gone on to work all over the world, whether in Hollywood, Broadway, or New York City. Many of them have gone on to compete for a four-year collegiate program.
However, Wright said it’s the relationships she values the most. Eight of the 10 members of her working staff danced at the studio.
“I feel very blessed to have the relationships with my staff and how we have the same goal of wanting the kids to learn, have fun and always improve,” she said. “It’s phenomenal when you take a step back and see how many kids’ lives you’ve touched. You hope their experience here has made a difference in their lives.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]