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CAIRO — A group of area dancers is headed to a national competition this week.

Members of The F.I.R.M. Dance Company are competing in the On Tour Dance Challenge National Competition in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday through Sunday.

“I am very excited about this group representing this community on the national level,” said artist director Dana Willis. “I am sure the hard work and dedication of these young people to this company will be rewarded.”

The F.I.R.M. will perform its top 15 numbers from the regional competition, held in Valdosta on Jan. 14, where the group won 14 High Gold and seven Gold trophies, with five High Score awards, as well as first, second and third places in all divisions and categories.

“The versatility of this company is what sets it apart from any other company in this area,” said Willis. “Not only are they a performance company, but they are also a competition company and this community should be proud to have such devoted and exceptional young people representing it.”

Willis also thanked the parents for their participation in preparations for the competition.

The company, comprised of approximately 27 young men and women, began rehearsing their competition repertoire in August 2006.

It rehearses Monday through Thursdays and also on Saturdays. The repertoire includes more than 20 numbers from a variety of dance genre’s, such as traditional jazz and tap, contemporary jazz and lyrical, musical theatre and hip-hop.

“I enjoy competing because it gives us the chance to see other students’ work as well as show off our own,” said Ronnie Stripling, 17.

Kayla Pope, 17, said she enjoys seeing how the dancers all work together to put on the best performance possible for the judges and the audience.

Christina Singletary, 13, said competition time is her favorite time of year.

“Everyone is so excited and focused,” she said. “It’s fun being able to show off our hard work from the year.”

Favorite numbers include a “fosse” routine, “I Gotcha,” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” and the energetic “Club 229.”

“I’m not a gangster, but I get to play one in the number,” joked Stripling of “Club 229.”

The F.I.R.M., in affiliation with Off Broadstreet Studio for the Dance Arts, was founded in 1998 by Willis.

The purpose of The FIRM is to further the dancer’s technique, knowledge, and proficiency in dance whole broadening the dancer’s competition and performance experience. It is dedicated to creating skilled and disciplined performers in addition to developing a level of confidence and a sense of camaraderie to be utilized in other aspects of life.

The purpose of OBCDA is to aid young people in obtaining a level of poise, confidence, and skill to be utilized in other aspects of life in addition to creating trained, disciplined and confident dancers and performers. It will open a second location at 125 N. Broad St. in Thomasville this summer and hold workshops at both locations in July.

The dancers are going to competition with the right attitude.

“Of course I’m hoping to win,” said Pope, “but I want us to dance the best we can.”

Stripling said he wants everyone’s hard work to pay off and for the group to be happy with their performances.

“We did well at regionals and, hopefully, we’ve fixed the problems we had then,” he said. “I think we’ve improved and I want us to do our best.”

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