What happens when a feel-good dance competition is faced with the challenges of a pandemic? It pivots (pun-intended) and finds another way for dancers to keep doing what they love safely. For National Dance Showcase, that meant trading the traditional touring model and creating its own home base—NDS HQ—in Voorhees, NJ.
“We are truly in the business of inspiring dancers on and off the stage,” says Sonia James Pennington, the executive director of operations and logistics for National Dance Showcase. “Facing challenges with the grace of a dancer is key to growing and thriving.”
When the pandemic made it difficult to reserve performance space last season, National Dance Showcase took matters into its own hands. “Many school districts and venues were not renting to outside organizations,” says Pennington, “and they could not provide a timeline for when they would be allowing such rentals.” The creative spirit of NDS led them to transform a former indoor family entertainment center—think mini golf and arcade games—into its dance venue. NDS HQ’s 20,000-square-foot space includes a black-box–style theater with a 60-by-40–foot stage, complete with wings, walk-throughs and high-quality theater lights.
After successfully hosting all of its 2021 spring events at NDS HQ, National Dance Showcase is excited to open its doors to more dancers at its new home. As it heads into its 19th season, its mission—to create meaningful opportunities and lasting memories for dancers—remains the same. “We are intent on bringing live events in a safe manner, within the guidelines that are governing this upcoming season,” says Pennington.
Competitions will be live streamed with a state-of-the-art three-camera system to televisions in the lobby and to viewers online. Dedicated Wi-Fi will be available for guests on-site, and additional upgrades to make the space more accommodating to the competition’s needs are in the works.
“We’ve found after last season that a lot of parents and directors were really happy that we took this scary step out of the box,” says Pennington. “Our hope is that studios see this as an opportunity for them to evolve and change the dance competition industry alongside us.”
By keeping its entire competition season in its own theater, National Dance Showcase also has the freedom to be even more flexible with the studios that grace its stage. “Last spring has proven that studios coming to us, instead of depending on outside venues, gave us more control over running our events without disruption,” says Pennington. It will continue with block scheduling this season and will accommodate the scheduling needs of its participating studios. Having a home base also allows the competition greater control over safety protocols and sanitization measures.
Aside from hosting National Dance Showcase competitions, NDS HQ looks forward to serving its local dance community by partnering with nearby studios for their recitals and Nutcracker performances. To stay current with everything National Dance Showcase, follow the competition on Facebook and Instagram and visit nationaldanceshowcase.com.