CRESTVIEW — Internationally acclaimed ballroom dancers who judged the recent Emerald Coast Dance Championships liked the north county talent they saw.



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CRESTVIEW — Internationally acclaimed ballroom dancers who judged the recent Emerald Coast Dance Championships liked the north county talent they saw.



The Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Crestview, competing for the fourth year, brought home nearly 90 first-place medals during December’s two-day competition. 



Crestview competitors included seven-year-old Hannah Raley, 15-year-old Kristen Gallo and adult competitors Barbara Webb and Wanda Batson. Studio professionals included owner David Colón and dance instructors Aaron Stowell and Hannah Teel Kania, who both are Crestview High School alumni.



Local students shared the floor at the Sandestin event with participants from Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach, Panama City, Tallahassee and Birmingham, Ala., dance studios.



“The students scored a combined total of 89 first places, to include the Top Solo award and trophy that went to Wanda Batson for her mesmerizing performance of her Argentine tango routine,” Colón said. At last year’s competition, the Crestview studio brought home 71 gold medals.



“Wanda had been working on it for two or three months,” Kania said. “She was fantastic.”



“Our instructors also placed well in the professional competition,” Colón said.



Stowell and Kania brought home a third-place medal in the mixed novice category while dancing the tango and mambo, Colón said. 



“Hannah also brought home a third place in the closed smooth category,” which includes waltz and foxtrot, he said. Colón was her dance partner for this category.



 Under the scrutiny of United States International Style Standard champions Brian and Susan Puttock and United States Amateur Latin champion Marylynn Benitez, who judged the competitions, students competed at the beginner, foundation and bronze levels. They performed several dances, including the cha cha, swing, mambo, waltz, foxtrot and Argentine tango.



“All the students have been working on solos,” Kania said. “The student picks the song they want to dance to and they get it choreographed by their instructors.”



During solo competition, a couple gets the dance floor to themselves to perform their routine, she said. In the group dances, couples share the ballroom as they perform a specific dance, gliding elegantly in a counter-clockwise circuit around the floor.



Dance studios, including the Crestview Fred Astaire franchise, routinely enter their students in regional, state, national and sometimes international competitions, Colón said.



 Contact News Bulletin Arts & Entertainment Editor Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or brianh@crestviewbulletin.com. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.



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