Local dancers raising funds for trip to Olympic spotlight

An elite team of school-age dancers will represent the area in London, England, next summer at London’s Cultural Olympics in 2012. The X Squad dancers are one of only eight U.S. teams performing at Big Dance 2012, which is being held in coordination with the Olympics in London in July and August.

The dancers are honored to represent the U.S. in this international venue, said Erin Vitalos, co-owner and co-director of the studio. But what makes their journey so remarkable is that the Big Dance committee specifically sought out and invited X Squad to perform.

The team, comprising approximately 45 dancers from two studios in Selbyville and in Crofton, Md., has won numerous regional and national level awards. Vitalos said the committee also saw video footage of the X Squad.

In London, the team will perform at multiple venues over the course of 10 days, including at a public event at Trafalgar Square and for Olympic athletes. Dancers from Australia, Canada and Great Britain will also join the lineup.

It’s not just dancing as usual, though. The students will also learn more in London.

Morgan King, a dancer from Indian River High School, said the team is “really excited” to work with different worldwide choreographers.

“It’s a great honor to be chosen to go there, to be invited,” King said.

Many professional companies have funding reserved for such a trip, Vitalos said, but X Squad just learned of their eligibility when Big Dance contacted them in June. That has given them only one year to plan and raise a significant amount of money.

Vitalos said it will cost $150,000 to send the 45 students, plus chaperones, to London.

Funding for the studio’s activities typically comes from cookie and candy sales, but much of it is parent-funded. However, it will take a community effort to send the local dancers overseas.

The studio is still fundraising and is currently seeking sponsors to help defray costs. Vitalos said a few corporations have stepped up, but more funding is needed.

“We’re trying to get the local businesses to come together,” said Vitalos. “We’re just trying to get the word out.”

She said X Squad is recognized nationwide in the dance world, but she hopes to spread the word more locally.

Hooper’s Crab House in West Ocean City will host a fundraiser for X Squad on Sunday, Oct. 9, from noon to 4 p.m. The cost for all-you-can-eat crabs is $35.

Besides fundraising, rehearsing long hours and learning new dances, X Squad will continue competing at other competitions along the East Coast this year.

The studio has unique origins. Looking to expand their horizons, six local teenagers approached Vitalos in 2008 and asked her to teach them. By word of mouth, the company grew to include locations with students from Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Vitalos said the then-no-name team won awards in their very first competition. Now, students from the first through 12th grades compete together.

The students are getting opportunities they don’t necessarily get at school, Vitalos said. Even if the students don’t go on to dance professionally, Vitalos said dance gives them valuable life skills, such as poise, musicality, confidence and self-expression.

“I love it. Everyone is so nice. We’re like a big family,” King said. “And everyone learns from each other too, so that’s great.”

X Squad dance studio is also beginning its 2011 to 2012 season, offering recreational ballet, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical and contemporary dance lessons for all ages.

The studio is located at 37031 Old Mill Bridge Road in Selbyville. For more information on donation or dance opportunities, call (410) 474-4995.