On May 28, Sampson County’s dynamic duo of Austin Pope, 14, and Karlee Martin, 9, will hit the floor again competing at the USA Grand Nationals in Atlanta, Ga.
The two met at an event in Goldsboro, after being asked to participate as entertainment in a Star Telephone Christmas event in 2008.
“We both liked the music, and we both liked to do the dance,” said Pope, “so it just worked.”
After working together at the Star event, the two decided to enter some competitions during 2009.
They participated in the 2009 National Shag Dance Championships, placing second; the North Carolina Azalea Festival; the Dunn Shriners, winning first place; and the Shag Alberty Competition.
The competitions built confidence for the pair going into March’s 2010 NSDCs.
“We practiced so much,” admitted Pope, a student at Sampson Early College, “we went in to win it.”
Pope and Martin practiced three nights a week in preparation for the event.
“We felt pretty good about our routine going in,” said Martin. “Then, after we got finished dancing, the people (in the audience) got up and were clapping for us; that really got us going and it really made us feel good.”
The two competed on a Thursday and Friday night, but didn’t find out their fate until the five-member panel of judges handed down the winners on Saturday.
“We got good feedback from the people in the audience,” said Pope. “There are five required steps you have to perform during your dance. You have to do those five on the first night; the second night, you can do a little more of your own stuff.”
The two have developed their own style, mastering their smoothness, their togetherness and the difficulty of their steps.
Their hard work paid off.
“It felt good to hear our names,” said Martin, a student at Midway Elementary. “We got a crystal trophy.”
“It was great,” said Pope. “To hear our names called was a great pay off to the work we put in, and we had a great time, too.”
But they won’t have long before they prepare for their next competition in Atlanta. Like their other competitions, the duo will be working with Chris and Angela Justice, as well as A.C. and Kathy Williams, on their choreography.
“This next competition is only one dance, so we are going to take the best moves from our two dances at Nationals and mix them into one,” said Pope. “We are still going to practice at least two to three nights a week for a month when in preparation for the Grand Nationals.”
It is no surprise that the two would be dancing at such a high level, they were born performers.
“I started dancing when my parents went to shag lessons,” said Martin. “I used to just sit and do homework when they practiced, but then, one day, I just joined in. I loved it ever since.”
Pope, who has been dancing for roughly six years now, said he has always loved to dance. “I started doing country line dancing when I was about 4 years old,” he said. “And then, when I was about 8, a little before my grandfather passed away, he taught me the basic steps to shag dancing. I just picked it up quickly and really liked doing it. Pretty soon, I was taking lessons and kept going with it.”
“I enjoyed dancing, but it was also a link to my grandfather,” he admitted.
Pope even taught a class during the first-ever ninth block in middle school, it was one of the most requested classes.
The dancing, the two said, has made them more skilled.
“It boosted my confidence,” said Martin. “And I have become a better dancer.”
Pope feels his dance moves are better. “Everything about it has matured, from my dance to my posture ... it has all gotten better.”
With the unending support from their parents, family, friends, fans and several area shagger’s associations, the duo have a very bright future ahead of them and they plan on dancing into the next decade.
“I hope to still be dancing in 10 years,” said Martin. “I want to be teaching and still competing.” Martin who also studies hip-hop, as well as three other types of dance, says that she just “loves” dancing and wants to continue it as long as she can.
Pope said he would like to continue dancing just for the fun of it. “I just want to do it on the side, not as a career,” he said. “I want to do it for fun. I want to go into the medical field, maybe computers.”
But dancing is in his blood. He’s even had a song written about him, entitled “That Boy Can Dance.” It’s a song written by Phil Wilson and recently recorded by the beach music band The Castaways.
Just before the USA Grand Nationals in Atlanta, Ga. on May 28, Pope and Martin’s parents have promised them a trip to Disney World.
“I have never been, so, I am very excited to go there. It is going to be a lot of fun,” Pope said.
When they return, the dancing will begin again.
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.