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Dancing all the way to Disney

DETROIT LAKES - When the Radke family traveled to Disney World several summers ago, Summit Dance instructor Mari Radke had little idea of what would result from the trip.

After watching a group of dancers perform at the park, Radke took the initiative and pursued the concept with her own dance students in mind. A successful endeavor, this summer will mark the third batch of Summit Disney Dancers to journey south to Florida's much-revered amusement park.

Where some dance studios prefer to compete, Radke has never opted in that direction for her girls. "I though it would be more fun to perform at Disney World," she said.

On June 5, 15 of Radke's students, accompanied by her and several of the girls' parents, will arrive at Disney in time for a two-to-three hour workshop on dance auditions. The girls will learn some choreography, and then be given general instruction in how to answer questions and what to expect were they to attend a professional dance audition.

The instructors at Disney teach the dancers "how to be positive or aggressive," adds Radke, as attitude is a vital aspect of the art.

That Sunday, the girls will perform on an open outdoor stage, centered in the bustling marketplace in downtown Disney.

"We always perform on a Sunday," Radke said, as Sundays usually see more visitors to the park. "People can be walking by -- some will stop and watch."

Always thrilled for an audience, the girls will create a 20-minute performance, interspersing their jazz and tap numbers with dances by other performing groups in order to make costume and shoe changes more feasible.

At the end, all 15 of the Summit dancers will return to the stage, incorporating their skills and graces in one large final production number.

The Summit Disney Dancers have been preparing for this summer's spectacle since September, in addition to their regular schedule of dance classes. Once school is out in May, an entire week of three- to four-hour rehearsals will be dedicated to preparation.

For a semblance of the actual onstage performance, the girls will use the Holmes Ballroom, practicing even their speedy costume changes in order to perfect every element of the show.

The commitment is a tremendous one, but at practice, the girls appear entirely capable in regards to their upcoming act, and evidently excited for the experience.

In addition to their time spent onstage, the trip includes plenty of allowance for checking out all the parks, watching other performers and soaking in the entire Disney World experience.

"Why else go?" grins Radke. "We stay right in the park, at Disney's All-Star Resort. It's real simple, but it's just right."

She adds that the hotel rooms aren't very well-used during the five days the group spends in Disney World: "You sleep, you get up, hurry up, got to go!"

An altogether enthralling week, there's little down time with visits to MGM and Epcot to be made.

What began as a summer vacation has sashayed its way into an incredible opportunity for these graceful young ladies to showcase their skills, while rewarding their dedication, perseverance, and hours upon hours spent -- literally -- on their toes in rehearsal.

Johnson is a senior at Detroit Lakes High School and is an intern for Detroit Lakes Newspapers.