Will Shover grew up in a dance studio in Elkin, North Carolina, raised by parents who were involved in theater, both triple threats. Although a self-described “studio brat,” he gravitated more to gymnastics and tumbling as a child, and it was only after his parents took him to a Carolina Dance Masters convention that he saw the possibilities in dance. Will remembers the moment: “I wanted to be Mister Dance North Carolina. Then I realized it would require effort and hard work, and I was pretty much a competitive kid from then on.”

Still, his future in dance wasn’t a sure thing. “Actually, I taught at my parents’ studio in high school, and told them I was never dancing again after I graduated. I was going to go to law school, do corporate mergers, and run for congress. Then I got a taste of politics in college, and found out it wasn’t my thing.”

After college, Will taught for Lisa Bibeau of Spindle City Ballet in Fall River, MA, and she told him he had a passion for dance. “When I told Lisa I wanted to start a dance competition, she said, ‘Maybe you should!’”

“I had about $35 in my pocket, but I took colored piece of paper and made a brochure for my first competition, called Footsteps. I think about 5 studios showed up, and we had 45 numbers in the first year. I was really excited about just making it happen. The name changed to Dance Machine ANDC after that, and we did three events a year, then five. Now, in our 17th season, we have 16 regionals, two conventions, and one national.” Will also owns Boogie Fever USA (an ADCC Gold member), and his own dance studios, Rhythm on Main Dance and Gymnastics, in Elkin and Mount Airy.

His favorite part of competition? “Being onstage. I’m a show director, so probably emceeing, announcing routines, announcing awards, creating suspense and being with the kids in that moment of excitement, meeting kids and studios backstage. One of my favorite things is knowing that a group is going to win, and having the teachers up onstage, celebrating a great moment for their studio as well.”

He loves the camaraderie that grows out of dance competition. “At our Nationals, you’ll see everybody cheering everybody on. One studio had to re, choreograph a piece for a dancer with broken foot, everybody onstage and off, cheering one another on. We have college roommates who met at a Dance Machine competition.”

It’s great to have people you can call up say, I need a judge, or how would you handle this? Every other industry has a trade association. It’s important having someone who understands the business to talk through things.

Will’s path to The ADCC was through fellow competition owners, Gina Dudash of EnerGy and Christina Cuomo of On Point. “We can only make the industry better by working together, seeing what we can accomplish as a group. It’s great to have people you can call up say, I need a judge, or how would you handle this? Every other industry has a trade association. It’s important having someone who understands the business to talk through things.” Will is also interested in how ADCC members can challenge one another. By working together, he says, “We’re asking what we can do for kids to take them to the next level, help further their future in the industry.”

Will is enthusiastic about Dance Dreams by Gerber Tours, an ADCC, exclusive program that brings award, winning students for a week of dance immersion in New York City. “Dance Dreams has been awesome,” he says. “I have several winners participating in the program this year.”

“I also get, ‘We hear you’re an ADCC member, we’re coming to you.’ That happened as soon as that first issue of The Competitive Advantage (ADCC’s magazine) came out.” He also appreciates The ADCC Studio of Excellence Award, recognizing dance studios that best exemplify the values of The ADCC: working together and striving for excellence. “I’ve had teachers come up to me backstage and nominate fellow competitors for the Studio of Excellence Award!”

Will has bright hopes for the future of dance competition. “It’s growing so much, and being banded together in The ADCC helps maintain the highest standards of excellence, whether that’s keeping good qualified people in positions, or showing studios how they can improve. Competition is not really about how much I can win, but how much I can improve.”
Learn more at dancemachineonline.com.