Stargazers Dance Troupe, a Dededo dance group that has been performing for over 25 years, has won a total of seven championships at a national dance competition.
“To see my group win was overwhelming because we worked hard on it,” said Mark Gonzales, choreographer and director of Stargazers Dance Troupe.
“Who wouldn’t want to see your dancers win and see the look on their faces and the joy in their spirits?” asked the 44-year-old Dededo resident.
That’s Entertainment Performing Arts competition was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, July 7-10.
Thousands of miles from home, dancers from Guam have conquered the stage winning in the following categories:
- Champions of the overall minis classification.
- Champions of the general classification of the small groups of 7 to 9 years old.
- 13-15 years old Champions of the general classification of the small groups.
- 13-15 years old Champions of the general classification of the large groups.
- 16-18 years old overall Large/Mega Group.
- Senior Duo/Trio Set.
- Overall adult champions.
- Overall Male Title: Michael Cajigal.
- Best overall score.
Eirian Gonzales, a senior dancer in the troupe, couldn’t control her excitement as the host announced their win.
“I was jumping up and down and tearing and screaming to the point where I lost my voice,” said the 14-year-old, who has been dancing for more than 10 years. “It was a rollercoaster of emotions.”
“I felt happy and very proud,” the Yona resident said. “All of the dancers’ hard work and countless hours of practice paid off.”
Johanna Escribano, another senior dancer who has been a member for seven years, shares the same sentiment.
“I may have exaggerated the celebrations, but it’s a fact,” said the 15-year-old. “I was mostly jumping up and shouting ‘Stargazers!’ and ‘Guam!’ at the top of my lungs.
Preparing for a national dance competition meant sacrificing other aspects of their lives.
Eirian Gonzales juggled between school and practice, training for long hours every day and memorizing dances. It usually takes him a week to learn the choreography.
“I focused on one thing at a time,” she said. “When it was school time, it was school. When it was dance time, I danced. When I had free time, I watched videos, studied the movements and trained independently.
“I overcame these difficulties with the help of my family. They helped me by picking me up and dropping me off despite their busy schedule.”
Escribano said it only takes him a day to learn a given combo.
“The only reason is that I wouldn’t stop at the studio,” she said. “I would ask for the music or find it on my own and practice in my bedroom – with the lights off, the music blaring and just me in my space.”
Traveling without his parents, however, was a struggle for Escribano.
“Knowing that I can’t share my enthusiasm with them hurts me a little bit,” she said. “It was really a mental struggle and I was homesick. Dancers were also going on vacation, which prevented us from making drastic changes to the dances.
Luckily, Escribano was able to contact his parents and their Facetime from time to time, which eased his mind a bit.
“As for the dancers who left, we still had a few days before the actual competition, so we used it to prepare as many dances as possible and clean them up,” Escribano said.
“Stargazers doesn’t specialize in tricks and flips (although we’re open to including them in our dances), but we love to tell a story through our lyrical and contemporary dances,” she added. “I’d say we’re also more powerful in terms of hitting the right beats and very energetic in our more punchy dances, like jazz and hip hop.”
Stargazers Dance Troupe hopes to continue their winning streak in future competitions while hoping to inspire young people who want to start dancing professionally.
“I hope to continue and inspire young dancers,” said Mark Gonzales. “If someone wants to pursue the dance, find an organization that you feel comfortable in and where you feel comfortable.”
Eirian Gonzales, passionate about the troupe, said it was not just a dance group, but a big family.
“My family of dancers share a passion for dance and fun,” she said. “I’m passionate about dance because it’s a place I can go anytime and anywhere; dancing is my refuge.
She also advised young dancers to always aim for the stars and never give up on what they are passionate about.
“Honestly, do what you love,” Escribano said. “Dance in your bedroom with the lights off and find your own style. … Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Oh, also find the right studio and the right people.