Friday, September 10, 2010

Local Duo Takes First in Dance Championship


Friday, September 3, 2010

Missy Keller and Joe Hasson are instructors at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Pinehurst.

The pair recently won the Astaire World Championships in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Hasson was exposed to ballroom dancing at an early age.

"Both of my parents are professional ballroom dancers and own Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Pinehurst," he says. "Whenever my parents taught, I was usually there, so it became a part of my life."

Keller, whom Joe Hasson taught, started her dance career at the age of 5 with ballet, tap and jazz.

"I continued dancing until I was 13," she says. "After three years, I missed dancing and wanted to learn ballroom dancing. I got addicted and at the age of 18, made the decision to become a professional."

Keller says that she competed as often as possible when she was a student.

"My first competition as a junior, I competed in the Word Pro-Am Dance Championships in the Bahamas, where I won my first amateur title," she says.

"Hard work and practice are important," says Hasson, who adds that he enjoys studying on his own and devotes most of his free time to practicing.

He also feels that eating right and extra workouts prior to a competition are helpful.

"I always visualize my routines and techniques," he says. "I have a third person watch and make suggestions."

Keller says she is still figuring out what works best for her.

"Performing is something I have always loved," she says. "The excitement of what lies ahead just before hitting the floor is an amazing feeling I can't describe."

Hasson says he had a good feeling about their chances of doing well going into the Astaire World Championships.

"We had the support of friends and family," he says.

Keller agrees that she expected to do well, but not necessarily to win.

"Keeping a positive attitude going into an event and throughout a performance is always a great attribute to have," she says, although she adds that she was a "nervous wreck" during the week leading into the competition.

Hasson and Keller competed against 14 other couples.

"I knew that we had to make the top six to be in the finals," Hasson says.

Keller says her favorite dance is the rumba.

"The character of the dance is one that I feel I can lose myself in," she says.

Hasson likes the mambo.

"I like the fun and excitement of the music, and the guy gets to be the cool one, showing off the lady," he says.

Keller says she was shocked when she learned they had won the championship.

"I feel it's definitely a good way to start my career, and it's a step in the right direction," she says.

Hasson adds, "It was fantastic, and I'm ready for the next one."

And at the next one - the International Grand Ball, in San Francisco, Calif. - he won first place in the Rising Star American Rhythm Division.

"Being a competitive dancer takes a specific desire and mindset," says Keller.

Hasson advises dancers to "just start."

"If you don't start you won't ever get there," he says. "There is a plan and a formula; you have to have guidance and practice, practice, practice. Being around competitive dancers from around the world, starting with my parents to today's world champs, has inspired me to compete at as high a level as it will take me."

And Keller and Hasson say that it's never too late to compete.

"Competitive ballroom dancing is something anyone of any age can accomplish with the right preparation," she says.

"If you want to compete there are competitions for every level," Hasson adds. "With the right dedication and desire, you can accomplish any of your dancing goals, as a social or competitive dancer."

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