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Wheaton Park dance team wins Hood Hop

July 25, 2009|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

HAGERSTOWN -- There were larger teams and older competitors, but that only inspired Zahir Scott and Timisha Ware to work their hip-hop moves a little harder.

Zahir, 9, and Timisha, 8, both of Hagerstown, made up the Wheaton Park dance team that took first place at the Hood Hop dance contest Saturday night at Doub's Woods Park.

Timisha arrived down center stage with a hefty piece of luggage. The duo grabbed the audience's attention when Zahir made a surprise arrival by leaping out of it.

The two rode the crowd's energy, crumping, shaking and popping through their performance to a mix including "Fanatic" by Lecrae.

The contest format was similar to that of the television show "So You Think You Can Dance." Dancers were judged in four areas -- synchronization, formations, energy and creativity.

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Some competitors received lukewarm comments from the judges following their performances.

"I didn't see any smiles," one said. "You all look like you're just standing there."

But each of the four judges gave Zahir and Timisha an enthusiastic response.

"You had the most energy of all the groups so far," the judges said. "You killed every move. Five stars all around."

Hood Hop is a summer dance program for children ages 5 to 18 in neighborhoods across Hagerstown. About 70 youths practiced with their teams one night a week for seven weeks. Teams representing Pangborn, West End, Noland, Fairgrounds and Wheaton Park competed in the dance-off.

Program director Anna Shetler, 22, of Hagerstown, started Hood Hop in 2004. She was 17 and needed to earn student service learning hours for school. She graduated from the University of Maryland last May and continues to run the program.

Shetler said the program began with a dance group called NoiSe. Through NoiSe, Shetler said she offered dance lessons to youths who lived in a variety of neighborhoods where other access to lessons would have been unlikely.

"They all wanted to be able to bring dance to their own neighborhoods, so we started Hood Hop," she said. "The best part is that since (2004), young people who used to take lessons have now stepped up to teach their neighborhood teams. They get a chance to teach dance in an environment where they are supported and where they can grow as leaders."

NoiSe performed at The Apollo Theater in New York City in 2006. Hood Hop received a Beauty of Education grant from Maybelline and was noted in a December 2008 issue of People magazine.

Ranaisha Jefferson, 13, of Hagerstown, is a member of NoiSe and a teacher and dancer for West End's Hood Hop team.

"I never had dance lessons before NoiSe. I felt better after I got involved," she said. "I like teaching, too. It's fun. And I like that people come out here to support us and see us dance."

Lisa Perez, 33, of Hagerstown, said her three daughters all dance with Hood Hop.

"They love dancing and they get to hang out with friends while they learn discipline and teamwork," Perez said.

Mandy Hornbecker, a second-grade teacher at Lincolnshire Elementary School, was a contest judge.

"This is a great program to give kids something positive to do, especially during the summer," she said. "And it brings the community together. There are people here from all over the place today."

Shetler said she suspected a downpour shortly before the contest deterred attendance, but about 150 people still gathered for the event.




Hood Hop winners



The following were the winners of Saturday night's Hood Hop dance contest at Doub's Woods Park.

o First place -- Wheaton Park

o Second place -- Pangborn

o Third place -- Fairgrounds

o Fourth place -- Noland

o Fifth place -- West End

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