How Headliners Creates a True Competition Experience Fueled by Passion and Focused on Education
Sponsored by Headliners
June 3, 2024

In 1989, CEO Shari Tomasiello and her mother created Headliners with a simple mission: that it would be an educationally based and goal-oriented competition, providing a fun and encouraging environment that’s inclusive of dancers of all sizes, levels, and abilities. As Headliners continues to expand—the 2025 tour boasts 33 regional competitions, two national competitions, and five conventions this fall—Tomasiello remains committed to that foundation, and to keeping the dancers at the center of it all. “We have always been about the kids,” she says. “This isn’t just a job for us. It’s really and truly a passion.”

Headliners’ approach speaks for itself: Over the past year, the competition has received a record number of positive reviews, commending Tomasiello and her team on their professionalism, warmth, and enthusiasm for young dancers, and noting the fairness of the judging. “We are always rooting for the dancers,” says Tomasiello of Headliners’ values. “We hope they focus not on the award earned, but on the experience, the opportunity to continue to learn and grow, and to make new friendships and connections.”

Keeping Competing Affordable

Coming from a dance studio background, Tomasiello and her two daughters, with whom she now runs the company, know what it feels like to attend a competition as a dancer, parent, and teacher. Keeping the expenses that come with competing in mind, Headliners aims to maintain reasonable entry fees. Headliners was also the first competition or convention to offer photos and video free of charge—a tradition Tomasiello is proud to uphold. 

Dancers competing at a Headliners event. Photo by Taryn Donofrio, courtesy Headliners.

Accommodating Students’ Schedules

To streamline the registration process, studios are prompted to indicate scheduling conflicts that they would like the competition to accommodate. Knowing this information in advance allows Headliners to create specific schedules for each event, which are shared with the participating studios weeks in advance. Tomasiello is also mindful of students’ school schedules when it comes to weekend start and end times. “By limiting entries, we ensure that events begin after school hours,” she says, adding that Headliners also aims to end at a decent hour on Sundays.

Dancers at a Headliners event. Photo by Taryn Donofrio, courtesy Headliners.

Focusing on Growth

Headliners is deeply committed to following its own rules. For instance, the competition offers three levels, but if the judging panel notices a routine registered in a level that seems too low for the dancers’ skill level, they’ll adjust that routine to the appropriate level. “Studios should want to give their dancers the opportunity to be the best versions of themselves,” says Tomasiello. “And our levels are such that each provides more opportunities, with the highest level offering cash and other scholarships. We believe passionately that competitions can, and should, be used to enhance the education of dancers.”

Dancers competing at a Headliners event. Photo by Taryn Donofrio, courtesy Headliners.

Supporting Dancers’ Futures

Headliners supports dancers’ growth beyond the competition stage by partnering with a growing number of organizations—including AMDA, The Norwalk Conservatory of the Arts, and Peridance Center—which provide scholarships to competitors. Through Headliners’ Trophy or Charity program, studios and dancers can select and donate the value of their awards to various charities, including the Headliners Foundation, which provides college scholarships for dancers who attend Nationals and are interested in pursuing a degree or career in dance. 

Tomasiello believes that the life skills that dancers learn from training and competitions are vital whether or not they’re interested in pursuing a professional performance career. “Dance really does provide so much more beyond the technique,” she says. “It’s the camaraderie, the teamwork, the strength, the way you carry yourself. Everything can be used moving forward in your life.”

Dancers competing at a Headliners event. Photo by Taryn Donofrio, courtesy Headliners.

Expanding Headliners’ Reach

As Headliners heads into its 2025 tour, it continues to grow, adding additional stops on both the East and West Coasts which will lead to National Championships, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Northern California. 

Headliners is adding more convention stops than ever before, which will include classes like floorwork, jazz funk, and Bollywood. Exposing dancers to styles they might not get in their home studios harkens back to Headliners’ commitment to education. “It’s about making the dancers that attend our events feel good about their accomplishments,” says Tomasiello. “Regardless of the score or award.”

Pre-registration to hold your spot for Headliners 2024 Conventions and 2025 Competitions is now available. Online registration officially opens July 15th. For more information on attending a Headliners event next year, click here, or email [email protected].

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